• Connecticut Supreme Court
  • Connecticut Supreme Court
  • SC 19010
  • Sep 26 2012 (Date Decided)
  • Rogers, C.J.

Connecticut General Statutes §9-249a is an ambiguous statute and its legislative history, genealogy and public policy all support a construction requiring the party whose candidate for governor polled the highest number of votes on that party's line be given precedence on the ballot in the subsequent general election. Republican Party leaders wrote to Denise Merrill, secretary of the state, pointing out that Tom Foley, Republican candidate for governor in the 2010 election, had received 560,874 votes on the Republican Party line, while Dannel Malloy, Democratic candidate, received 540,970 votes on the Democratic Party line and 26,308 votes on the Working Families Party line. The Republicans contended that, under C.G.S. §9-249a, the Republican Party should have been listed first on the 2011 election ballots and should be listed first on the ballots in the 2012 election. Merrill disagreed. The Republicans brought this action for declaratory and injunctive relief, seeking, inter alia, a judicial determination that C.G.S. §9-249a requires Merrill to list Republican Party candidates first on the 2012 ballots. Merrill countered that sovereign immunity barred the action and because Malloy in the aggregate received the highest number of votes, the Democratic Party candidates should be listed first on the 2012 ballots. Reserved questions were transferred to the Supreme Court. Following supplemental briefing, the Supreme Court determined that it had jurisdiction. Prior to bringing the action, the plaintiff was required to exhaust its administrative remedies by requesting a declaratory ruling from Merrill. The plaintiff's letter to Merrill constituted such a request. Merrill's response was deemed a declaratory ruling. The case was considered an administrative appeal for which the state waived sovereign immunity by statute. This resolved the first reserved question of whether sovereign immunity barred the complaint. For the second reserved question, the Supreme Court concluded that C.G.S. §9-249a required Merrill to list the Republican candidates first on the 2012 ballots. C.G.S. §9-249a was ambiguous. Legislative history and public policy supported the plaintiff's construction of the statute, under which the party whose candidate received the most votes for governor on its party line is entitled to the top line on the ballot in the succeeding election. 1953 revisions were not intended to change the statute's meaning. Any doubt as to that meaning was settled in 1939, when a similar controversy arose.