The Connecticut General Assembly
OFFICE OF LEGISLATIVE RESEARCH
February 23, 1994 94-R-0098
FROM: Mary M. Janicki, Principal Analyst
RE: Nominating Procedures
You asked for a summary of state law on the nominating process in Connecticut for major party candidates for state and district offices.
Candidates for state and district offices are endorsed by a political party in the summer of even-numbered years and challenge or can be challenged in a September primary for the nomination. But the nominating process extends, in a way, back to January when town committee members are endorsed. Nomination to state and district offices in Connecticut involves a two-, and sometimes three-step process. In addition, the preliminary, tangential selection of town committee members can be considered still another step. Party members meeting in a caucus endorse town committee members who are subject to a challenge primary. Once selected, the town committee members endorse delegates to the nominating convention; endorsed delegate candidates are subject to a primary. Once selected, delegates vote to endorse a candidate for each office at a convention. If the party-endorsed candidate is not challenged by a candidate who received at least 15% of the vote on any roll call at the convention, that candidate is the nominee. If there is a challenge, the candidate faces a primary and the winner of the primary is the party nominee.
The “challenge” primary system applies to candidates for public office as well as to the positions of town committee member and political nominating convention delegate. In each case, the political party makes a party endorsement, but there is also the opportunity for qualifying candidates to circulate and file petitions to challenge the endorsed candidates in a primary. In the case of a challenge, the results of the primary determines the party nomination. If there is no challenge, the party-endorsed candidates are considered the nominees.
Different procedures govern nomination by a minor party or ballot access by nominating petition; for example, only major party nominations are subject to primary. Only the laws on major party procedures are covered in this report. Chapter 153 of the General Statutes governs nominations for all candidates.
Notices of caucuses and primaries must be published. The hours of voting for primaries is 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. People eligible to use absentee ballots can do so at any of the primaries described here. In addition, the law addresses exceptions to the normal procedures discussed in this report; for example, when vacancies occur on either an endorsed or non-endorsed slate of delegates or when a party fails to endorse a candidate for an office or position. If you have questions about such unusual circumstances, we will describe those provisions at your request.
The chronology of events in the election cycle are set in statute, as a set day in a specified month or as they relate to one another (for example, nominating conventions are held between the 68th and 50th days before the primary for state and district offices). The dates included in this report are for the November 8, 1994 general election. A copy of the calendar for the 1994 election year is prepared by and available from the Office of the Secretary of the State.
TOWN COMMITTEE MEMBER
The selection of town committee members is pertinent to public office nominations since the town committee members endorse candidates for convention delegates, who, in turn, endorse public office candidates. This year, between January 4 and 11, caucuses (open to all enrolled party members in the town) endorsed candidates for town committee member (CGS §§ 9-390 (c) and 9-391). Party members who wanted to oppose the party-endorsed candidates for town committee had to submit petition forms signed by at least 5% of the enrolled voters in the jurisdiction by January 26; and the number of candidates required to be listed on the petition had to be at least 25% of the number of town committee positions to be filled (CGS §§ 9-405, 9-406, and 9-411).
On the first Tuesday in March (March 1, 1994), primaries for town committee members will be held where valid petitions have been filed (CGS § 9-425). Polling places are open between 6 a.m. and 8 p.m. Absentee voting is permitted.
DELEGATE TO STATE AND DISTRICT CONVENTIONS
Between March 22 and 29, members of each town committee or caucuses of party members (depending on local party rules) will endorse delegates to state and district conventions held to nominate candidates for public office (CGS §§ 9-390 (b) and 9-391). On the day after endorsements are made, primary petition forms are available from the local registrar of voters. Individuals who want to challenge the endorsed candidates for convention delegate positions must do so as a group or slate. The slate must include enough candidates to fill all the contested, or available, delegate seats and they all must be party members registered in the jurisdiction. If they all sign a statement that they support the nomination of one or more candidates for one or more offices for which the convention will make an endorsement, each candidate's name will appear on the ballot with the slate designation. Their petition must be signed by at least 5% of the enrolled party members in the jurisdiction and filed with the registrar of voters (CGS §§ 9-407 and 9-409). The registrar verifies the signatures.
Where there are challenges, delegate primaries will be held between 6 a.m. and 8 p.m. on May 18. Delegate primaries are held on the third Tuesday in May (CGS § 9-424) and eligible voters may vote by absentee ballot. In each case, the winning slate of delegate candidates will attend the nominating convention held to endorse candidates for office in the summer.
CANDIDATES FOR PUBLIC OFFICE
The method used to endorse a party's candidates for state or district office is by vote of the delegates at a nominating convention. Conventions are held between July 1 and 15, 1994, on days set by the state central committee or the authority of the party holding the convention (CGS § 9-383). Delegates cast votes for candidates for each of the offices for which endorsements are required. The candidate who receives the endorsement under the party's rules (usually by receiving a majority of the votes of the convention delegates present and voting) is certified as the party-endorsed candidate. But any candidate who receives at least 15% of the convention delegate vote in any of the roll calls cast at the convention can challenge the endorsed candidate in a primary (CGS § 9-400, as amended by PA 93-342).
If a 15% candidate wants to primary (a challenge is the candidate's option), he has 14 days to file or have someone else file with the secretary of the state a certificate stating that he received 15% of the convention vote, attested to by either the convention chairman or secretary, and that he consents to run in a primary. The two-week period begins with the close of the convention, starting between July 7 and 25 this year. If a primary challenge is filed, a primary is held for nomination to the office on the 56th day before the November election, this year: September 13 (CGS § 9-424). (If a primary day would fall on the day after Labor Day, it is postponed for a week; if it would fall on a religious holiday, it moves to the next succeeding business day (CGS § 9-376).
The winner of the primary becomes the party's nominee for the office. If no other candidate receives at least 15% of the convention vote or if no candidate who receives the threshold support opts to challenge, then the candidate who receives the convention endorsement is the party's nominee in the general election.
Caucuses are meetings held at a set time and place that are open to all enrolled party members in a town or subdivision for the purpose of selecting party-endorsed candidates. Participation in a primary is restricted to enrolled party members unless the party's state rules permit unaffiliated voters to cast ballots. The deadline for enrolling in a party (by a new or unaffiliated voter, but not a transfer) in order to vote in a primary is noon the day before a primary. A party-endorsed candidate need not be an enrolled party member; but a primary challenge candidate must be enrolled in the party.