Board validates Norton signatures

Board validates Norton signatures

PROVIDENCE – The Board of Elections on Wednesday dismissed Senate District 8 candidate Matt Fecteau's challenge of opponent David Norton's signatures, validating the fact that Norton has the 100 signatures needed to run.

The board found that each of the challenged signatures were acceptable, including the ones gathered at the Doyle Manor senior housing complex. Fecteau didn't produce evidence to the board that Norton had indeed trespassed on the property, as he'd claimed, saying he had emails from property managers that Norton wasn't supposed to be at the property and that they were still looking into whether he had trespassed.

Even if Norton did trespass, said board members, that action wouldn't be enough to invalidate his signatures. They said that's a "political issue," not a "legal issue."

PAWTUCKET – The battle between former political allies intensified this week when Matt Fecteau, pictured left, filed a challenge with state elections officials disputing the legitimacy of some of the voter signatures obtained by David Norton, right, in the special election for Senate District 8.

According to Fecteau’s complaint, there are several signatures that appear “identical, questionable, and look like they were obtained through questionable circumstances.” He also said an investigation is underway at Doyle Manor on Broadway into whether Norton intimidated or harassed its residents into signing his nomination papers. He said Norton wasn’t allowed on the premises, producing a note from a manager at the facility stating that Norton was asked to leave.

“I am concerned with anyone trespassing in Doyle Manor and invading the privacy of its elderly residents, be they a salesman hawking steak knives or a politician seeking votes,” said Fecteau in a statement to The Breeze. “Every candidate until now has followed the norms set forth by its residents to campaign at a social hour instead of door to door. It’s a shame Mr. David Norton didn’t respect our seniors’ wishes.

“I also am exercising the rights entitled to any concerned candidate running for office,” he added. “We need to ensure the integrity of our electoral process.”

Joseph Graziano, communications coordinator for the Rhode Island Secretary of State’s Office, said Monday that the agency received Fecteau’s complaint last Friday afternoon and gave the original nomination papers gathered by Norton to the Board of Elections. The complaint is on the board’s agenda for its meeting today, Wednesday, Feb. 7.

Without the signatures at issue in the challenge, Fecteau says Norton wouldn’t have the required 100 names needed to run.

Norton told The Breeze in a statement that Fecteau’s challenge “speaks strongly to his general lack of understanding of basic legal concepts and his lack of understanding of specific R.I. laws.” He said Fecteau’s complaint “was unsigned and has scribblings that make no legal sense.” (The official copy obtained by The Breeze has Fecteau’s signature).

“I personally know all of the voters that my opponent is claiming broke the law,” said Norton. “I also know the careful process that nomination papers have to go through before being approved by the Pawtucket Board of Canvassers because of my own careful research in the process when I discovered last election that my vote was not counted and the votes of others were not counted.”

Fecteau’s “inability to understand the process and his inability to engage with the professionals who are in charge of the process should be very concerning to voters,” added Norton. “My opponent is a nice enough guy, but running for state Senate is serious business and I don’t think my opponent is ready to take on this important position, as evidenced by his total lack of knowledge in this area and his total lack of personal connection to voters in Senate District 8.”

Asked to respond to Norton’s statements, Fecteau said he is “focused on talking to the voters of District 8, not getting into a mudslinging match with opponents.”

Fecteau and Norton are two of three Democrats in the special election primary for the Senate District 8 seat vacated by Jamie Doyle. Sandra Cano is also running in the Feb. 27 primary.

Norton previously supported Fecteau in the Senate 8 race before taking issue with Fecteau’s reluctance to make a strong statement against a new stadium for the Pawtucket Red Sox. Norton decided to jump into the Senate 8 race against his former ally, and plans to still run for House District 60 if he comes up short.