Campaigning in a normal year is hard enough, but campaigning for state office in the middle of a pandemic has created all sorts of issues for candidates. Those hurdles are even harder for candidates still trying to get on the ballot.
Going out and asking someone to sign a piece of paper isn’t as easy as it used to be, but a federal judge ruled earlier this week that the rules the state has set for candidates seeking ballot access was fair and not unconstitutional.
“This is totally different because of COVID-19,” says Jason Bartlett.
Bartlett is trying to collect 1,024 signatures over a 16-day period to get on the Aug. 11 Democratic primary ballot to challenge Sen. Gary Winfield (D-10th Dist.).
Last month, Gov. Ned Lamont lowered the number of signatures that needed to be collected; he gave candidates an extra two days to collect the signatures, and allowed them to do it electronically.
But the electronic system Bartlett spent thousands of dollars on comes with a learning curve for some voters.
“I don’t know how much I can get because I’m kinda out of time. So I’m trying to hit the number and get as many signatures that are good that I can.”
Bartlett has 10 people helping him collect signatures, but it’s still a daunting task in a normal year. At least one person at a condo complex on Winchester Avenue in New Haven was too nervous to answer the door, but they opened a window and asked Bartlett to leave his information.
“I had a lady say I don’t want to sign with your pen, so she went to get her own pen,” Bartlett says. “They came out without a mask, they went back to get a mask. Things like that but they definitely want to talk. The COVID is there, it’s in their mind, but they still want to figure you out. They want to get to know you.”
Bartlett’s Attorney Alex Taubes filed a lawsuit challenging Lamont's new rules for petitioning candidates said the system is still rigged against the challengers.
“They force us to go collect hundreds and hundreds of signatures in the midst of a pandemic and force people to choose between the health of their community and the health of their democracy,” Taubes said.
Taubes is also looking to run for a state Senate seat. He made the decision to form his own party, the Unified Peoples party, to challenge Senate President Martin Looney in the general election. Forming his own party means he has to collect 215 signatures over a 60 day period, instead of 1,116 signatures over a 16 day period.
For some candidates, like Bartlett, Thursday at 4 p.m. is the last day they will be able to try and collect signatures from Democratic voters in their district if they hope to get their name on the ballot on Aug. 11.