Paying the Price for Trying to Vote Twice?

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    NEWSLETTERS

    A man accused of attempting to cast two ballots will not face criminal charges, and state officials are backing a bill that would change that. (Published Thursday, Apr 24, 2014)

    We sometimes hear concerns about people trying to vote twice on Election Day, but rarely is there proof. Moderators at a Berlin polling station believe they caught someone red handed – but it appears he won’t face any repercussions.

    Paul DeFelice did not want to talk with the NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters. He showed up to vote at a Berlin poll last November and “immediately fled” after moderators told him he couldn’t vote since he had voted in New Britain hours earlier.

    “The person voted here, but then, our understanding, what we know, is that the person tried to vote in the town where [he] originally registered prior to voting here,” explained New Britain Democratic Registrar Juan Verdu.

    It took place in a year when New Britain had an upset in the mayor’s race – incumbent Tim O’Brien was ousted by newcomer Erin Stewart. Among O’Brien’s more controversial proposals was a so-called “landlord tax” that became a rallying cry for landlords.

    DeFelice is a landlord in New Britain, according to people living at one of the homes city records say DeFelice LLC owns. DeFelice’s LinkedIn profile says he is in the real estate business.

    The Troubleshooters learned that right after election day, someone who appears to be DeFelice wrote on the incoming mayor’s Facebook page, “My God there will be many landlords who won’t be sweating anymore. So relieved you won.”

    DeFelice declined to talk with the Troubleshooters after we tried contacting him multiple times. When asked why he didn’t want to speak with the Troubleshooters, DeFelice said, “I can’t trust you guys.”

    Connecticut’s Secretary of the State Denise Merrill said the situation is an unusual one.

    “We rarely, rarely have anything like this happen,” Merrill said.

    She notes that 2013 was the first year Connecticut allowed people to register to vote on Election Day. A total of 164 did so in New Britain, including DeFelice. It’s the second-highest total among all the state’s municipalities.

    Merrill said when poll moderators in Berlin checked DeFelice’s last name, an address in Berlin came up but had been crossed off because DeFelice had registered earlier in New Britain, claiming he lived at a home city records say is owned by DeFelice LLC.

    “The system worked,” Merrill said. “The registrars all did what they were supposed to do, and that’s why they uncovered this situation.”

    When the Berlin registrar’s office sent a complaint to state elections enforcement about the alleged attempt to vote twice, elections enforcement did not pursue the case. While it’s a felony to actually vote twice in Connecticut, there’s nothing on the books for trying to vote twice.

    Merrill is backing a bill this session that would make that a felony as well.

    “Most people agree there ought to be consistency in the law, and I don’t think there’s any objection to the idea that the attempt to vote twice is a serious issue,” she said.

    The New Britain home where DeFelice said he lived in last year’s voter registration was sold three weeks after Election Day, according to New Britain city records.