Kilian v. Bettencourt
A court can find that a statute that requires candidates to sign a nomination form and to provide their addresses is not mandatory, in part because the statute does not include a penalty for noncompliance. On Aug. 28, 2013, the Realistic Balance Party timely filed its nomination for candidates for the Nov. 5, 2013, election. Allegedly, the defendant town clerk accepted the nominations and failed to immediately inform the party or the candidates that Connecticut General Statutes §9-452 had changed, to require "the signature of each candidate" and the "street address of each candidate." Members of the Realistic Balance Party sued the town clerk, pro se, and requested that the court issue an order that Planning and Zoning Commission candidates Steven Smith and Stephen Devoto's names be included on the ballot. The town clerk objected that she lacks the power to add candidates to the ballot, if they do not comply with C.G.S. §9-452. "Ambiguities in election laws are construed to allow the greatest scope for public participation in the electoral process, to allow candidates to get on the ballot, to allow parties to put their candidates on the ballot, and most importantly to allow the voters a choice on Election Day," pursuant to Butts v. Bysiewicz, a 2010 decision of the Connecticut Supreme Court. Although the statute includes the word "shall," the court found it is "nonmandatory as applied to the facts," in part because it does not include an express penalty for noncompliance. The statute "should be construed in order to provide the greatest access to the ballot." Even if the statute were not mandatory, the plaintiffs adequately alleged that the town clerk should be estopped from omitting their names from the ballot, because the town clerk sent a proposed ballot to the plaintiffs that contained a line for the Realistic Balance Party, and the plaintiffs were entitled to rely on the town clerk's official act and to presume that their nomination met official requirements. The court granted the plaintiffs' request for a writ of mandamus and ordered the town clerk to place Smith and DeVoto's names on the ballot.