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'Misadvised and Misled': Actions Of Coventry Registrar Could Warrant Primary Probe

Ryan Caron King
Connecticut Public Radio
A sign hangs outside a Connecticut polling location on primary day.

An elections official in Coventry could soon be the subject of a state investigation.

The secretary of the state’s office has referred Coventry’s Republican registrar of voters to the State Elections Enforcement Commission.

The referral stems from errors that forced this month’s primary election to be pushed back a week.

“[The secretary of the state’s office] referred this to SEEC because the error that was made was sufficiently serious so as to keep an otherwise qualified candidates off the ballot through no fault of their own, and required a lawsuit and a judge’s order to fix,” said Gabe Rosenberg, the communications director for the secretary of the state.

A Coventry couple filed a lawsuit after their primary ballot signature forms were rejected.

Kelly Sobol holds a Republican seat on the board of education while her husband Michael is a Republican member of the town council. They attempted to petition onto the ballot because they didn’t have a party endorsement. The original complaint filed on behalf of the plaintiffs alleged that the registrar, Pamela Sewell, gave the Sobols incorrect petition forms, even though she assured them the paperwork was legitimate.

“Both Mike and I are pleased to hear that the secretary of [the] state’s office has turned this matter over to SEEC for further investigation,” said Kelly Sobol.

Sobol emailed a written statement to Connecticut Public Radio.

“It is our hope that through this process integrity can be restored to the Republican Registrars office,” Sobol said. “All voters of Coventry deserve the assurance that the state will restore the accountability and integrity to this critical office in government.”

Sewell has yet to respond to a Connecticut Public Radio email seeking comment.

A superior court judge placed blame on Sewell when he ruled in favor of the Sobols on August 26.

“The court finds that the plaintiffs have demonstrated by a preponderance of the evidence that they so misadvised and misled by the registrar of voters, which led directly to the rejection of their petition,” Judge Samuel J. Sferraza said.

In order to ensure the Sobols’ proper inclusion on the ballot, the primary was moved to September 17, from its originally scheduled date of September 10. The Sobols both lost their primaries, but their attorney said they have successfully petitioned onto the general election ballot.

A spokesperson from the State Elections Enforcement Commission said that the referral will be brought before committee members in October, but he offered no comment in the interim.

Frankie Graziano’s career in broadcast journalism continues to evolve.

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