Law Changed To Exclude Late Write-In Candidates

BERLIN — Eleventh-hour candidates for the Berlin Mayor and Town Council can no longer be written in on the ballot on the day of the election.
Mayor Gee Williams confirmed that the changes to the town code are in response to Berlin’s most recent election when a surprise write-in for mayor managed to reach triple-digit votes. Williams denies that the town requested the change, however, and said it came unprompted from the Board of Elections.
“I think it was just obvious that something was amiss, there,” said Williams.
In October of 2012, Williams ran unopposed for re-election. On the day of the election, however, there was a strong write-in campaign for resident Ellen Lang, a former town councilwoman, as mayor. Williams won comfortably, 335 to 122 votes, but was plainspoken about how he felt the write-in campaign was an “ambush” by the Berlin Fire Company (BFC), which was engaged in a funding conflict with the town.
“It has been verified that the Berlin Fire Company is campaigning today to have another town resident who has not filed for election, be elected by write-in vote as Mayor of the Town of Berlin,” Williams claimed in a statement posted to his Facebook account last October. “Rather than openly encourage and support a candidate to run against me, they are trying this underhanded and behind the scenes tactic, to eliminate me as Mayor.”
The BFC denied the accusation, calling it “false” and asserting that the company is never politically motivated.
“The fire company has not participated in support of any political campaigns, as is our formal policy,” read a statement from the BFC.
Now, a little over a year later, a write-in campaign like the one that occurred in the last election is no longer valid starting this week. Election charter and code amendments that were passed Monday now necessitate that any write-in candidate file no less than seven days before the election.
“A certificate of nomination for a write-in candidate shall be filed no less than seven days prior to the scheduled election. The name of the write-in candidate shall not appear on the ballot for the election,” read the amendment, “except as written-in by the voter at the time of casting of the ballot; write-in names of individuals who have not filed the appropriate certificate of nomination shall not be included in the vote tally conducted by the Board of Supervisors of Elections, however the remainder of such ballot shall not be invalidated.”
This means that any candidate who hasn’t filed at least a week in advance will not have their name counted as an official vote. Voting for an unregistered write-in candidate won’t invalidate any other votes on the ballot, however, only the vote for the write-in.
“All of those recommendations came from the election board themselves. They didn’t have to be prompted or any of that,” said the mayor. “I knew they had concerns and so I waited like everybody else to see what they recommended. The only change that I recommended was about the actual date, which was not related to the last election.”
Williams was referring to a pair of minor tweaks to Berlin’s election code which were also approved Monday. They standardized the deadline for candidates filing to appear on the ballot for general and special elections to “no less than 28 days preceding” the elections. Previous language read “the second Monday in September next preceding a town election,” and “the Monday four weeks preceding the date,” of a general and special election, respectively.