Complaint: by Coe
The State Elections Enforcement Commission will not consider hypothetical text that was omitted from the explanatory text for a referendum, when it rules on whether the explanatory text was biased. Joan Coe filed a complaint with the State Elections Enforcement Commission, alleging that the board of selectmen of the Town of Simsbury authorized explanatory text that was biased to accompany referendum question(s) on whether, inter alia, the first selectman could appoint a personnel director, the board of selectmen could assume certain legislative functions of the town meeting, the town could spend more than 3 percent of the budget on emergency appropriations and the zoning commission could appoint a permanent design review board. Coe argued that the explanatory text omitted pertinent information that explained the arguments of opponents. Connecticut General Statutes §9-369b(a) provides, "Such text shall not advocate either the approval or disapproval of the proposal or question. . . ." The State Elections Enforcement Commission wrote, "In determining whether a communication constitutes advocacy, the Commission reviews the entire communication and considers its style, tenor and timing." Explanatory text qualifies as advocacy, if the explanatory text urges a particular result. The State Elections Enforcement Commission was not persuaded by the complainant's argument it should consider language that was omitted from the explanatory text. That standard of review would be "unworkable" and "beyond the scope" of the statute. The complainant failed to establish that the explanatory text was biased, in violation of C.G.S. §9-369b(a), and the State Elections Enforcement Commission dismissed the complaint.