Ahead of Connecticut’s August 14 primaries, a veteran dealing with the effects of injuries he suffered while serving in Afghanistan has complained to the secretary of the state’s office because he believes the process of petitioning to get on the ballot is unfair to candidates with disabilities.
Micah Welintukonis is running for governor, unaffiliated with a major party.
Five days before the August 8 deadline for candidates to turn in at least 7,500 signatures to petition onto the ballot, Welintukonis sat on his couch with his feet elevated instead of being out on the campaign trail.
He was reaching out to voters through his computer as he normally does from his Coventry home.
Welintukonis said that after everything he’s been through, he didn’t think it’d be so hard to gather signatures.
“I didn’t expect my knees to just blow up,” Welintukonis said. “They blow up. And, you have to get them drained and you have to get steroid injections in it.”
Outside of the Welintukonis home, his big black SUV features a license plate that reads “Blown Up,” alongside a purple heart. Welintukonis said that fragments of a bomb from a 2012 suicide bomber attack have done permanent damage to his body.
“That shrapnel that went inside my abdomen, it actually went through my protective vests,” Welintukonis said. “I’ve got two dozen pieces of shrapnel in my left arm alone and nerve damage—I can’t straighten out my arm out anymore.”
Welintukonis decided to run for governor in January of 2017—it wasn’t until last month that he first complained about the procedure to get on the ballot.
Now, he’s asking the state to either find a way to make petitioning compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act or let him do something other than petition.
Welintukonis said he knows he’s not going to be the next governor. But, he said he’s hoping at least that his campaign for ADA compliance will be successful so that other potential candidates with disabilities could have an easier time getting on a ballot.
“If there’s a person in a wheelchair who says ‘Hey, I don’t want to run as a Democrat, I don’t want to run as a Republican,’ what are the obstacles that they’re going to run into?” Welintukonis said. “Or a blind person? Or people with other physical disabilities?”
In response, the secretary of the state’s office said that for the process of obtaining support from signatories to change, it would be up to the Connecticut General Assembly to change the law.
The office provided a statement to Connecticut Public Radio.
“Our agency is administrative in nature and we don’t have the authority to alter existing statutory requirements,” said spokesman Gabe Rosenberg. “Unfortunately, the state statutes are very specific in regards to what form the petition takes.”
Of course, petitioning candidates are able to have surrogates collect signatures for them. Welintukonis said even with 100 volunteers out on the road, he’s been unable to get close to the required number.
As of August 3, Welintukonis had only collected 122 signatures certified by the Secretary of the State’s office.
What will Welintukonis do next in politics? He said he’s waiting to see who makes it onto the ballot before deciding that.