ANSONIA — State Republican Sen. George Logan’s campaign flagged an error in the city’s election numbers Thursday that resulted in a 252-vote swing in the returns for the state Senate 17th District race.
“It was a keying error when the numbers were uploaded to the (Secretary of the State) system on Election Night,” Chuck Pyne, Logan’s campaign manager, said in an email Friday. “It was brought to their attention Thursday morning, verified by both parties in the Ansonia Registrar’s office and corrected vote counts were provided to the SOTS system.”
The Valley Indy first reported the changes Thursday after they were reported to the state, but there was little information available explaining what happened. The situation became clearer Friday.
Logan’s campaign was checking the info Thursday because the results reported by campaign volunteers at polling places within the city on Election Night — both campaigns had Logan with a small lead — differed from the results the Ansonia registrars of voters submitted to the Secretary of the State the next morning.
The discovery meant that Logan’s challenger, Democrat Jorge Cabrera, didn’t win the race by 187 votes — but had instead lost it by 65.
However, no official winner has been declared because the margin of victory is so small a recount has been ordered in state Senate District 17, which covers Ansonia, Derby, Beacon Falls, Woodbridge, Naugatuck, and Hamden.
Thomas Maffeo, the Democratic Registrar of Voters, spoke publicly about the situation for the first time Friday afternoon.
He said the mistake was probably because of an election worker with “tired eyes” reading results off of a machine counting ballots.
“We believe there was a transcription error from the tapes to the system where we file directly with the state,” Maffeo said.
An extra 251 votes went to Cabrera. Logan’s total was undercounted by 1 vote.
Maffeo said officials may learn more about how the mistake was made during the Ansonia portion of the recount, which is tentatively scheduled for Nov. 13.
Republican Registrar Nancy Valentine has not returned several calls and emails from the Valley Indy.
However, in a story in the Waterbury Republican-American, she said one of the town’s machines malfunctioned, and officials were told they could feed the ballots from the broken machine into the working machine and they wouldn’t be counted more than once.
But, Valentine said, some ballots were counted more than once, causing the town to report incorrect figures to the state.
The political ramifications of the mistake keep growing.
On Thursday, the chairman of the state’s Democratic Party threatened to go to court over the incident, saying Ansonia’s “lack of transparency and consistency raises grave concerns about the integrity of the outcome of the election.”
On Friday Ansonia Corporation Counsel John Marini said Mayor David Cassetti’s administration was still waiting to hear details from the registrars about the mistake.
Marini said the Logan campaign was keeping the city in the loop about the situation.
Then, on Friday afternoon, the city released a letter from Ansonia Town Clerk Janet Vitarius Waugh asking the state’s Elections Enforcement Commission to investigate the handling of Tuesday’s election.
The letter states the Registrars have failed to give “an adequate explanation” for the “double-counting.”
Waugh’s request includes all of Tuesday’s races covering Ansonia, not just Cabrera-Logan.
“I believe such an investigation is necessary to identify the cause of the double-counting error, and to ensure the credibility of all results reported by the Ansonia Registrar’s Office in this year’s election,” the letter concludes.
The Cassetti administration supports Waugh’s request. Under state law, such requests can come from a registrar or a town clerk.
On Thursday afternoon, as news of the recount surfaced, Marini told The Valley Indy that “two absentee ballots in 7th Ward were counted over 200 times.”
He also said the city was looking into what happened.
On Friday, Marini said he was not implying that someone broke into a machine and put a ballot through a machine 200 times.
“It does not appear that a ballot was run through a machine 200 times,” he said. “It appears that the mistake was made in the reporting from the Registrar’s Office to the Secretary of (the) State. That, essentially, from what we’re being told, a data entry mistake was made.”
The Valley Indy had contacted Marini Thursday in an effort to get someone from Ansonia City Hall to discuss the issue since the Registrars were not available.