Even though the City of Hartford is facing a huge budget deficit, when it came time to place a full page advertisement in a program booklet for a political organization, the Registrar of Voters Office quickly jumped at the opportunity. Even though the ad doesn't mention one word about voter registration or even the importance of being registered to vote, it does prominently name the Registrars and Deputy Registrars and looks more like a political advertisement. A copy of the ad is below in PDF format. As you can see, the City of Hartford seal and "Registrars of Voters" is prominently displayed in the advertisement.
But even though that ad was ok and use of the seal and "Registrar of Voters" was fine with the Democratic Registrar, a firestorm of e-mails was about to erupt. Working Families Party Registrar Urania Petit added her sponsorship to a voter outreach event, a Board of Education Candidates Forum sponsored by various groups, including Hartford 2000 and the Hartford Public Library scheduled for October 27, 2009. A copy of the flier for the forum is below in PDF format. The issue appears to have started after the flyer was printed and distributed by Hartford 2000 and forwarded out by e-mail. One of the people who received that original e-mail was Kathy Evans, Secretary of the Hartford Democratic Town Committee. Evans, who works for a non-profit partially funded by the City of Hartford, "Organized Parents Make a Difference" known as "OPMAD" then forwarded the e-mail out to unknown recipients from e-mail address at opmad.org. The e-mail was sent under the header of firstname.lastname@example.org but was "signed" by Sean Arena, Democratic Town Chairman. According to the e-mail, Arena urged the recipients to "try and attend to support our candidates for B.O.E". I'm not sure how OPMAD is set up,but if they are a 501c-3 non-profit and they are using their resources to endorse or support political candidates, that is another issue that most likely will endanger their non-profit status if pursued. Apparently one of the recipients from the opmad.org e-mail on behalf of the Democratic Town Chairman was Democratic Registrar of Voters Olga Vazquez. Vazquez was apparently upset that Petit would have the audacity to sign on to a voter outreach program without clearing it through her first. It should be noted that although Petit is the first third party Registrar of Voters elected in the State of Connecticut, she did it legally in accordance with Connecticut State Law, and there is no difference in authority conveyed to her or the Republican or Democratic Registrar. They are all on equal level in the eyes of the law and no one Registrar is in control of the Registrar of Voters Office. Apparently was so upset by the use of the Registrar of Voters logo that she e-mailed Corporation Counsel John Rose requesting an immediate opinion as to whether Petit may have broken any laws. In Vazquez's e-mail she states " As the Democratic Registrar of Voters, I do not understand why the name of the Registrars of Voters continues to appear as Co-Sponsor for numerous events held by other organizations". I may be missing something here, but isn't that what they are supposed to be doing? We are not talking about a "for profit" event, we are talking about an event that is meant to educate voters and make responsible choices when exercising their right to vote, exactly what the Registrars Office should be doing every day. Vazquez further asks "Can law allow this and is this legal?". The greater question might be "Can law allow this and is this legal that a duly elected Registrar of Voters is actually doing her job and interacting with voters?" The entire e-mail is also below in PDF format. Surprisingly, Corporation Counsel John Rose was apparently having a day in which his thoughts were actually based in law, and forwarded the e-mail to two of his underlings for their opinions and asked "am I missing something here...is this a tempest in a teapot?".
The Corporation Counsel's Office came back with the following opinion that "Examination of the applicable election sections of the Connecticut
General Statutes reveals nothing in the flyer's contents which would
constitute a violation of Connecticut election law.The existence of the registrar's seal on the flyer does not promote a particular candidate or act in any way to influence voters to vote one way or another. The seal merely shows the support of the Hartford Registrars of an event which promotes educating the voters of Hartford
by encouraging voters to listen to the various candidates in a neutral
forum.". John Rose again was apparently on a roll with using the law and common sense that day and offered the following advice,"the better part of valor would be for the three Registrars to communicate before any one of you uses the office's seal
or the city seal to endorse a program.". It seems to make sense to me.
If people at City Hall only put as much time and effort into doing the right things rather than wasting unlimited resources on doing the wrong things and political back-biting, imagine what we as a City could accomplish. Urania Petit declined to comment on this issue.
Registrar's NAACP Ad
Registrar BOE Forum
Registrar e Mail