CLEARED: East Hampton: State Investigating Possible Misuse Of Absentee Ballots

Complaint dismissed, 3/27/2012, from the Hartford Courant:

The state Elections Enforcement Commission has dismissed a complaint against former Republican councilwoman Melissa H. Engel concerning the alleged misuse of absentee ballots for a referendum more than a year ago.

The March 21 decision by the commission concerned the fiercely fought November 2010 referendum in which Police Chief Matthew Reimondo won back his job.

Engel, a critic of Reimondo’s, had been accused of mishandling absentee ballots in the weeks preceding the referendum, according to a complaint filed with the commission last September by East Hampton Sgt. Garritt Kelly.

Kelly was investigating concerns raised by a citizen over Engel’s request for at least 11 absentee ballots for residents of a seasonal campground she owns known as Markham Meadows, according to the complaint.

At issue was whether Engel and Douglas Logan, a campground resident, could act as official designees of the residents for whom ballots had been sought. State election law requires that only family members or a health care provider can serve as an official voter designee.

The commission concluded that either Engel or Logan was related to the individuals for whom ballots had been requested and therefore met the larger definition of “family.”

The commission also looked at whether Engel had sent two residents, Richard and Donna Kelly, “unsolicited” absentee ballots, and concluded that the ballots had been requested.

“I’m not surprised by the decision,” Engel said Monday. “I knew that I had done nothing wrong and this confirms that.”

Engel decided not to seek re-election last November after serving six terms on the town council. The Chatham Party, which had backed Reimondo, won four out of seven seats on the council in November.

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Hartford Courant: State Investigating Possible Misuse Of Absentee Ballots – Complaint Cited ‘Numerous Applications’ For Ballots By Engel Before Police Chief Referendum <read>

The state Elections Enforcement Commission confirmed Monday that it is investigating possible misuse of absentee ballots by Councilwoman Melissa H. Engel during last year’s referendum reinstating Police Chief Matthew Reimondo…

Engel on Monday denied any wrongdoing in the matter. “I’m not sure what the basis of the complaint is,” she said. “I think there is nothing here and, I think the SEEC will determine that.”

Kelly said that Reimondo asked him to look into the matter in April of this year after concerns were raised that Engel had sought “numerous applications” for absentee ballots, according to the affidavit. His complaint states that voting records in the town clerk’s office revealed that Engel made 11 separate applications for absentee ballots. The handwriting on many of these applications appeared to be Engel’s, Kelly stated.

The complaint further states that Town Clerk Sandra Wieleba “became suspicious” after learning that two of the applicants for absentee ballots, Donna Kelley and Richard Kelley, “apparently had not requested the applications” and had “received them unsolicited.”

If these allegations are proven true the voters of East Hampton should appreciate the integrity and vigilance of officials for noticing and pursuing the matter. How many times do things like this happen and go undiscovered or not pursued?

We believe that a good case can be made for Connecticut to require signatures of voters at the polls and compare signatures on submitted absentee ballot envelopes, as many states do. It may not provide detection before votes are counted,  but aid in post-election investigations and serve as a deterrent to skulduggery.

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