My Message to the Town Council

During Taxpayers’ time, I gave the following message to the Town Council. The following isn’t what I said verbatim but what I intended to say:

Good Evening.
Myself and Mr. Santagotta went through a re-canvas last Monday evening after a close vote in the Third Voting District. Of course I would have been happier if the results were different, but I think because the outcome was the same, it proves that our voting system is reliable and works very well. It may be cliche’ that “every vote counts”, but it should be emphasized how often close elections actually occur. The Secretary of State’s office didn’t have exact figures when I called them, but at least 30 towns had recounts this year. Here in Wolcott, three different races were decided by less than 30 votes and this was the second municipal election in a row where we had a recount.

According to anecdotal reports around the state, it seems that recounts only overturn an election when human error is involved. I think that speaks to the kind of people we have as moderators and registrars of voters in overseeing the elections. From what I saw as an observer during our recount, it seems that everything was handled very professionally. Of course, having the opportunity to witness the recount I had some questions about the new technology to make sure that it worked well.

First, I had heard that some people had complained that their marker was low on ink and so I wondered if the machine would pick up the vote. Or, in the case when I voted and found no marker at all, some people may have filled in the ovals with a ballpoint pen or pencil. After observing the recount, I saw that in both of these instances the votes were counted.

During the recount, a moderator noted to both myself and Mr. Santagotta how sensitive the scan machines were. On some ballots, sometimes a voter might rest the tip of the marker in one oval just for a second, but fill in the other oval indicating the person they wanted to vote for in a two-person race. The machine rejected these ballots, thinking the voter voted for two people instead of one and the ballot was given to a moderator to be hand-counted.

Second, I was concerned that some voters knew that three councilmen would be seated from each voting district, but the instructions on the ballot and in the Town Charter only allows them to vote for two candidates. This issue was addressed in the Waterbury Republican-American where some people also saw “Voting District Three” and so, they would vote for three candidates because they saw the word ‘three”. These ballots were rejected as a overvote”, and because it cannot be determined which two of the three candidates they prefered most, the vote can’t be counted. I was able to observe these ballots and if they were counted, they also would not have impacted the election.

The recount was done in the same manner as the original election. First, absentee ballots were viewed by both Democratic and Republican tabulators, and then the Election Day ballots were fed into the machine. It took five hours which I would call “on the edge of you seat boredom”. Despite that, the process was fair and the results show that the ballot scanning machines are reliable and I personally have a firmer faith in them. In addition, the process undertaken by the staff was also done fairly and accurately. Throughout the recount moderators allowed myself and Mr. Santagotta to observe the ballots.

The other reason I am here tonight is to congratulate the new Town Council on their election and re-election. I would also like to impart some advice for the new members. As the Chairman noted at the organizational meeting, the party labels as well as the organizations you ran with are now gone. For the next 2 years you will be judged by what you accomplish as a group working in the best interest of the town. We know what the composition of the Council is now (4 Democrats, 4 independents and 1 Republican), and it would be interesting to see some unpredictable votes. This would force you to work together, and as long as you are working in what you feel is the best interest of the town, voters will be appreciative.

I would like to give some advice. First, ask questions. Lots of them. The employees, staff and elected officials in Town Hall are very good at their jobs and more than willing to tell you about their jobs and how they can do them better. Speaking to the Police Chief, Public Works Director, Fire Chief and other department heads will be rewarding. Further, I hope you will take up Municipal Finance Officer Linda Bruce on her offer to meet with her. She can tell you about how the expense, medical, pension, and other accounts are handled. Todd Bendsten in the Education department’s business office also is a very good resource for understanding those accounts. Also, the Council Clerk, Beth Gaudiosi can assist you in research, drafting various documents and othe guidance.

I wish you all luck and trust you will do the people’s work and again – the clock starts tonight. Congratulations.

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