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Mosby hits pay dirt with complaint to state regarding Norwalk primary

Then-Norwalk Board of Education member Shirley Mosby, at a June 2017 BoE meeting. (File photo)

Updated, 4 p.m.: PDF added; 1:07 p.m.: headline changed again; 6:57 a.m.: Copy edits, new headline, information added

NORWALK, Conn. – Democratic Registrar of Voters Stuart Wells was wrong in denying then-Board of Education member Shirley Mosby’s request for printed voter enrollment records last summer, a state agency said Wednesday.

After failing to qualify for a Democratic primary, Mosby filed a complaint with the State Elections Enforcement Commission on Aug. 23.  The complaint included numerous allegations against Wells.  Wednesday the SEEC said that most of the complaints were out of its purview. Three allegations merited investigation, two were dismissed and one resulted in Wells being found to have violated state statute by failing to provide printouts of voter registration lists at no charge.

“The Commission notes that physical copies of enrollment lists are often much more valuable to campaigns than electronic copies, as the pages are distributed to campaign workers for petition drives. … Accordingly, the Commission concludes that, in failing to provide a physical copy of the Democratic enrolment list, when the Complainant requested it, Respondents violated General Statutes §§ 9-55 and 9-55a,” the decision reads.

The result is that Wells and Republican Registrar Karen Doyle Lyons signed a consent order, an agreement that they will in the future provide a “hard copy” of voter enrollment rolls to candidates at no charge.

Mosby failed to receive the Democratic Party endorsement last year in her drive for reelection, and collected signatures to compete in a primary against the endorsed Democratic candidate. Nine-hundred forty-two signatures from registered Democrats were needed to force a primary.  Mosby turned in petitions with 1,146 signatures, but was informed by Wells that only 830 of those signatures could be verified; the others were ruled duplicates, ineligible or not from registered Democrats. She therefore did not qualify for a primary.

Mosby, in her complaint with the SEEC contested “the process and outcome of the gathering of signatures for a primary,” identified herself as a female African American, and complained that Wells provided an inaccurate voter enrollment list and refused to provide a printed copy, creating a hardship for her campaign.

She also wrote that Wells tried to talk her out of a city-wide primary, “reasoning it’s hard to get 942 signatures, a lot of work would be quite costly to the city to hold an at large primary.”

“Circulators were told that the registrar office was not planning on reviewing the signatures until they hit the 600 signatures mark,” Mosby wrote. “Registrar of voters office was not neutral – when one of the circulators handed in his sheets early; the Registrar of Voter Stuart Wells voluntary posted a comment with the name of the circulator to a local blog that often portray African Americans in a negative light. This action discouraged circulators from approaching the Registrar’s office with fear of being put on that blog.”

Evidence submitted by Mosby included an Aug. 1 NancyOnNorwalk story about candidates running for election, on which Wells left a comment mentioning that John Mosby was the only circulator who had turned in signatures at that point.

Mosby’s complaint also included an email from Wells to Mosby, telling her that she only had 830 verified Democrats on her petitions, asking her for assistance in identifying illegible names, and warning her that it probably wouldn’t get her to the number of signatures that she needed.

She also wrote, “I’m complaining, contesting and challenging why out of 1146 signatures submitted when 942 was needed- 830 were valid especially when myself and the circulators worked off of the information (registry list) that was given to us by the Registrar of of Voters office. I informed Mr. Wells, Registrar of Voter office that I was contesting and challenging his results. The responsibilities of the registrars of voters office is to maintain an accurate and up-to-date computerized voter registry and conduct all federal/state, and local elections and primaries within the City of Norwalk.”

“Complainant makes numerous allegations against Respondents. Many of these allegations, even if true, would not amount to a violation within the jurisdiction of the Commission,” the Commission wrote in its “AGREEMENT CONTAINING A CONSENT ORDER,” issued Wednesday.

Mosby was told she’d need to pay 50 cents per page to obtain printed voter registration information under a Norwalk registrars’ office policy based on the Freedom of Information Act, the Commission states, going on to explain that charging for the information is in violation of Connecticut General Statutes§ 9-55 (e) and 9-55a.

Regarding Mosby’s complaint that the list was not accurate, the Commission stated that “it is not a requirement that an enrollment list be perfectly accurate. In fact, because most of the information contained in such list is self-reported by voters, there are often errors and inconsistencies in the enrollment lists through no fault of the Registrars tasked with maintain such list.”

Further, the Commission wrote, “Complainant generally alleges that the Respondent improperly rejected … petition signatures. An independent review by Commission staff identified four rejected signatures that may have been both legible and belonging to properly enrolled members of the Norwalk Democratic Party. The remainder of the rejected signatures were either illegible or belonging to individuals not qualified to sign such a petition. Even if those four signatures had been accepted as valid petition signatures, Complainant would still have fallen far short of the signatures required for her to qualify for a primary.”

The latter two allegations were dismissed.

Wells and Mosby declined to comment.

Mosby was on the ballot last fall as a petitioning candidate and fell well short in her drive for reelection.

Shirley Mosby affidavit to SEEC 2017

mosby v wells FD_2017_046 18-0718

7 comments

John Levin July 19, 2018 at 9:31 am

I disagree with M. Murray. I think citizens should be encouraged to participate in politics and to seek elected office. I’m sorry that Ms. Mosby’s petition effort was not successful, as clearly she had many valid signatures suggesting broad support.

Further, Ms. Mosby’s complaint has made our system better, by ensuring that candidates may obtain a printed copy of voter lists at no charge.

Keeping our democratic system open to all citizens is just part of the cost of doing business, and as a taxpayer, I am happy to support that. We have failed miserably if only wealthy candidates for office can hope to compete.

Stuart Wells July 19, 2018 at 2:21 pm

Ms. Mosby got our excellent electronic list of all 19,000 Democrats in Norwalk, which is what every candidate prefers because it contains much more information than any printed list of voters and their addresses. The electronic list includes all known phone numbers, apartment numbers, voting history, etc., etc. She thanked me, by email, for this list and made no objection or indication that she preferred a less useful printed list. In addition to the extra information it contains, an electronic list can be sorted into any desired order or subset for the purposes of assigning streets and names for circulators to gather their signatures.
Giving Ms. Mosby anything less than our best and most useful product would have been unprofessional.
Even though not required, Ms. Mosby was also furnished with a line by line list of the results of my checking of her petition pages and given the opportunity to point out any errors, and any names that her circulators might be able to identify which I could not read. (For instance, a circulator might remember who signed after “Jones” and before “Smith” on a particular page, or what the actual first name was of someone who signed with a nickname that I couldn’t identify.) She might have been able to get credit for a few more if she had identified some errors or additional information. The problem, of course, was that she needed around 100 additional, so finding just a few more wouldn’t do the job.

Rick July 19, 2018 at 2:50 pm

This sounds more like arrogance than ignorance on the cities part. No way to run a city. I admire Stuart Wells but after he was thrown under the bus the party is still untouched and some seemed amused.

M. Murray July 20, 2018 at 6:10 am

I am surprised she couldn’t print out the electronic copy herself. Anyone have a scorecard on how many times the Moseby’s have filed complaints or lawsuits against the City and their won-loss record and expense to the City?

John Levin July 20, 2018 at 7:06 am

Stuart Wells is a class act. We are lucky to have him as a Registrar of Voters in Norwalk. Thank you, Stuart.

Skyler July 20, 2018 at 7:43 am

Wait, I don’t get the headline … how did Mosby hit paydirt?

1. She didn’t get enough signatures.
2. The rulings went against her in every case but one
3. While she did get herself on the ballot, she lost miserably

My second question is … what did Mosby accomplish while serving 2 terms on the Board?

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