Middletown Rep. Joe Serra Agrees To Reprimand In Settlement Of 2016 Election Complaint
In case you missed the article in the Hartford Courant on Friday, June 8, 2018, here is the link. A few facts: This unlawful violation by Joe Serra was done during the November 2016 election. It took a year and a half for the SEEC (State Election Enforcement Commission) to come down with their official findings. He only received a Formal Reprimand for breaking the law.
Although Joe Serra says in the article he was "Just using the bathroom", the bathroom at the polling station at Wesylan University was on the first floor. Joe was on the second floor where the voters were voting. Republican Moderator Jon Pulino asked him to leave and the Democrat moderator wrote the incident in the official polling station log. So much for saying he was "Just using the bathroom." It's a shame. A 24 year incumbent that knows the law about not crossing over the 75 foot marker on election day, still thinks he can violate the law. (He also did this at a second polling station (Moody School) about four hours later the same day.
Text from the Hartford Courant article:
“State Rep. Joe Serra has agreed to a formal reprimand for entering polling places during the 2016 election as part of a settlement of a complaint filed against him by his opponent, Republican Linda Szynkowicz.
Serra signed the agreement May 7. The agreement includes an order to comply with the statutes that prohibit candidates from entering polling places.
Szynkowicz said she filed a complaint with the State Elections Enforcement Commission on election day — Nov. 8, 2016 — after a family member saw Serra and his brother, Councilman Thomas Serra, leaving the polling place on the Wesleyan University campus.
Szynkowicz is challenging Serra in a third straight election for the 33rd House District.
She said the resolution of the complaint shows that Serra has overstayed his welcome representing Middletown.
“People can see I’m actually standing up to the unlawful things he does,” Szynkowicz said.
Serra said he never entered voting locations, and only went within the 75-feet restricted zone around the buildings to use the bathrooms while stopping at polling places to meet with voters.
“We never went in where they vote,” Serra said. “I didn’t realize you couldn’t use the restrooms even if you don’t enter where they’re voting. I didn’t know. I know now, obviously.”
The SEEC also investigated the complaint against Thomas Serra, but his settlement did not include a reprimand.
Serra said he did not agree with the SEEC’s findings, but wanted to resolve the complaint.
“I just thought it was something to settle before the current election,” Serra said.
The settlement says the Serras were asked to leave one of the polling places by the moderator, but Joe Serra said Thursday that wasn’t true.
“I used the bathroom, in and out, I didn’t linger. They basically told me don’t do it again,” Serra said. “Nobody ever asked us to leave.”
The agreement with SEEC says Joseph Serra violated state election laws on two occasions “by entering a polling place and within the ‘75 feet’ restricted zone … during the hours of voting on Nov. 8, 2016 for purposes other than voting and while he appeared on the ballot as a candidate for state representative in both voting districts.”
Szynkowicz said she’s pleased to see the SEEC acknowledge a violation, but isn’t convinced it will be a deterrent for candidates in the future. Republicans often face more scrutiny than Democrats, she said.
“It’s hard but Republicans understand that,” Szynkowicz said. “We’re hoping someday the SEEC process will be more fair for Republicans.”
Her campaigns in 2014 and 2016 have focused heavily on offering transparent communication with voters and on keeping taxes down. She has accused Serra of voting for tax increases.
“I’ll defend my voting record,” Serra said. “We were able to get $4.2 million and another $1.5 million for the board of education [in the last legislative session.] That doesn’t just happen. You’ve got to have relationships in Hartford.””