FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION
|In the Matter of a Complaint by||FINAL DECISION|
|against||Docket #FIC 1997-394|
Republican Registrar of
Voters, Town of Greenwich; Sharon
Vechiolla, Democratic Registrar of Voters,
Town of Greenwich; and Office of the
Registrars of Voters, Town of Greenwich,
|Respondents||July 8, 1998|
The above-captioned matter was heard as a contested case on February 3, 1998, at which time the complainant and the respondents appeared, stipulated to certain facts and presented testimony, exhibits and argument on the complaint.
After consideration of the entire record, the following facts are found and conclusions of law are reached:
1. The respondents are public agencies within the meaning of §1-18a(1), G.S.
2. By letters dated November 26, 1997, the complainant requested that the respondent registrars provide him with an opportunity to inspect the voting machines employed at the November 4, 1997, election in Greenwich.
3. By letter dated December 3, 1997, the respondent registrars denied the complainants request contending that the voting machines are not public records.
4. By letter dated December 5, 1997 and filed with the Commission on December 8, 1997, the complainant appealed to the Commission, alleging that the respondents violated the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act by denying him access to the voting machines as requested in the letters described in paragraph 2, above. The complainant asked that a civil penalty be imposed upon the respondents.
5. Section 1-18a(5), G.S., in relevant part specifically defines public records or files to mean:
any recorded data or information relating to the conduct of the public's business prepared, owned, used, received or retained by a public agency, whether such data or information be handwritten, typed, tape-recorded, printed, photostated, photographed or recorded by any other method.
6. It is found that the voting machines employed by the Town of Greenwich at the November 4, 1997, election contain vote registers, which are located at the back of such machines, and which numerically tally the votes taken at such election. The vote register is not the final determination of the election results. To the vote register must be added the absentee ballot results. This combined total then becomes the formal record, which is shown on the moderators return form and is the official record subject to public inspection at all times, pursuant to §9-150b, G.S.
7. It is found that the voting machines employed by the Town of Greenwich at the November 4, 1997, election are currently stored and locked and that, in order to inspect the vote registers, certified mechanics must be hired by the town to unlock such machines.
8. The complainant contends that the vote registers described in paragraph 6, above, constitute data or information related to the publics business which is recorded by a method other than those specified in §1-18a(5), G.S., and that therefore such registers are public records within the meaning of such provision and, consequently, subject to his inspection pursuant to §1-19(a), G.S.
9. The respondents contend that the voting machines do not fall within the scope of the statutory definition of public record and that such machines do not produce a record within the meaning of the FOI Act. Rather, the respondents contend that the voting machines, through their registers, produce information, which is transferred to the moderators return, which is the official record of the election.
10. Section 1-19(a), G.S., in relevant part provides that:
[e]xcept as otherwise provided by any federal law or state statute, all records maintained or kept on file by any public agency, whether or not such records are required by any law or by any rule or regulation, shall be public records and every person shall have the right to inspect such records promptly during regular office or business hours . (Emphasis added.)
11. It is found that a series of state statutes specifically address public access to voting machines and the records of elections.
12. Specifically, immediately after the election polls are closed, §9-309, G.S., in relevant part provides that:
the moderator, in the presence of the other election officials, shall immediately lock the voting machine against voting and immediately open the counting compartments, giving a full view of all the counter numbers to all the election officials present. The moderator shall read and announce in distinct tones the result as shown by the counter numbers . The vote so announced by the moderator shall be taken down by each checker and recorded on the tally sheets . The counter compartment of the voting machine shall remain open until the statement of canvass and all other reports have been fully completed and signed by the moderator, checkers and registrars, or assistant registrars, as the case may be. The result of the votes cast shall be publicly announced by the moderator . While such announcement is being made, ample opportunity shall be given to any person lawfully present to compare the results so announced with the counter dials of the machine after which the doors of the voting machine shall be closed and locked . (Emphasis added).
13. Section 9-310, G.S., in relevant part provides:
[a]s soon as the count is completed and ascertained as required in this chapter and the moderator's return required has been executed and a duplicate copy thereof placed in one of the machines, the moderator shall close and lock the counting compartments and seal the operating lever with a numbered metal seal, and the machine shall remain so locked against voting or being tampered with for a period of fourteen days, except as provided in section 9- 311 or pursuant to an order issued by the State Elections Enforcement Commission.
14. Section 9-266, G.S., in relevant part provides:
When the machine has been locked at the close of an election in the manner required by section 9-310, the moderator shall place all keys of the machine on a strong and sufficient string or wire and label the same with the make and number of the machine and the name of the municipality and the number of the ward or voting district therein at which used at such election, and return such keys to the municipal clerk with the official returns. Except as provided in section 9-311, such clerk shall securely keep such keys and not permit the same to be taken, or any voting machine to be unlocked, for a period of fourteen days from the election, unless otherwise ordered by a court of competent jurisdiction, or by the State Elections Enforcement Commission. All machines shall be boxed and collected immediately on the day after election or as soon thereafter as possible, and shall be stored in a place or places directed by the board of selectmen.
15. Section 9-311, G.S., in part provides for recanvassing in the case of a discrepancy. In relevant part, such section provides:
(c) Upon the completion of such recanvass, such machine shall be locked and sealed, the keys thereof shall immediately be returned to such clerk and such machine shall remain so locked until the expiration of fourteen days after such election or for such longer period as is ordered by a court of competent jurisdiction .
16. Section 9-328, G.S., sets forth the process for appealing election results through the Superior Court. Such section provides in relevant part
any elector or candidate claiming that there has been a mistake in the count of votes cast for any such office at such election may bring a complaint to any judge of the Superior Court within fourteen days of such election or primary to any judge of the Superior Court . Such judge shall forthwith order a hearing to be had upon such complaint, upon a day not more than five nor less than three days from the making of such order, and shall cause notice of not less than three nor more than five days to be given to any candidate or candidates whose election or nomination may be affected by the decision upon such hearing, to such election official, the Secretary of the State, the State Elections Enforcement Commission and to any other party or parties whom such judge deems proper parties thereto, of the time and place for the hearing upon such complaint. Such judge shall, on the day fixed for such hearing and without unnecessary delay, proceed to hear the parties. If sufficient reason is shown, he may order any voting machines to be unlocked or any ballot boxes to be opened and a recount of the votes cast, including absentee ballots, to be made .
17. The complainant contends that, since the statutes set forth in paragraphs 12 through 16, above, do not mandate that voting machines remain locked beyond the fourteen day period after an election, §1-19(a), G.S., requires that the vote registers on such machines be made available for inspection upon the request of any person after such fourteen day period.
18. However, it is noted that §9-328, G.S., anticipates that a judicial order is required to unlock voting machines after an election, in some instances after the mandatory fourteen day locking period imposed by statute. Moreover, the Commission takes notice of a separate statute which provides the court with the power to examine and test voting machines, a grant which would appear superfluous if the complainants contention described in paragraph 17, above, is correct. Specifically, §9-330, G.S., in relevant part provides that:
[a]ny judge having jurisdiction over any action brought under section 9-323, 9-324 or 9-328 shall have the power, if sufficient reason is shown, to order the examination and testing of any voting machines.
19. No part of legislation is to be treated as insignificant or unnecessary and there is a presumption of purpose behind every sentence, clause or phrase. State v. Ayala, 222 Conn. 331, 346 (1992). There is also a presumption that legislation is enacted in view of existing relevant statutes and with the intention to create one harmonious body of law. Budkofsky v. Commissioner of Motor Vehicles, 177 Conn. 588, 592 (1979). Moreover, the law favors a rational statutory construction and it is presumed that the legislature intends a sensible result. State v. Parmalee, 197 Conn. 158, 165 (1985). With these tenets in mind, it is concluded that public access to the records of elections and to the record contained in the vote registers at issue in this case are provided by statutes other than §1-19(a), G.S. It is therefore further concluded that the respondents did not violate §1-19(a), G.S., by denying the complainants request as described in paragraph 2, above.
The following order by the Commission is hereby recommended on the basis of the record concerning the above-captioned complaint:
1. The complaint is hereby dismissed.
Approved by Order of the Freedom of Information Commission at its regular meeting of July 8, 1998.
_________________________ Doris V. Luetjen Acting Clerk of the Commission
PURSUANT TO SECTION 4-180(c), G.S., THE FOLLOWING ARE THE NAMES OF EACH PARTY AND THE MOST RECENT MAILING ADDRESS, PROVIDED TO THE FREEDOM OF INFORMATION COMMISSION, OF THE PARTIES OR THEIR AUTHORIZED REPRESENTATIVE.
THE PARTIES TO THIS CONTESTED CASE ARE:
Sam Romeo c/o Tracy A. Marlow 3 Westend Avenue Old Greenwich, CT 06870-1640
Veronica Musca, Republican Registrar of Voters, Town of Greenwich; Sharon Vechiolla, Democratic Registrar of Voters, Town of Greenwich; and Office of the Registrars of Voters, Town of Greenwich c/o Atty. Valorie A. Luoma 101 Field Point Road P.O. Box 2540 Greeenwich, CT 06836-2540
__________________________ Doris V. Luetjen Acting Clerk of the Commission