Low Norwalk primary turnout ‘disappointing’

NORWALK, Conn. – While Wednesday morning’s headline was Harry Rilling’s comfortable victory with 51 percent of the vote in a four-man Democratic primary for the right to run against Republican Mayor Richard Moccia, the secondary story was the low turnout.

Rilling swept to victory, winning all but one precinct. Rowayton went for Vinny Mangiacopra.

Only 20.8 percent, or 3,325 of 15,985 registered Democratic Party voters, cast ballots to choose who would carry the party’s banner into battle with the four-term incumbent.

And while NancyOnNorwalk has seen and heard a lot of comments about the turnout, it wasn’t totally unexpected. No less a Norwalk election expert observer than Moccia told NoN Friday that he expected between 3,000 and 3,500 voters.

While there is no recent local primary with which to compare these figures, a total of 14,295 Norwalk voters cast their ballots for mayor in the 2011 election. Primary elections nationwide traditionally draw a fraction of the general election turnout, and the fewer the races, the lower the turnout.

Candidate Matt Miklave said earlier he expected about 5,000 people to turn out, and that 2,000 votes – 40 percent – would be enough to win. As things turned out, Rilling polled 1,703 of the 3,325, or 51.22 percent. Miklave released an internal poll in the final week of the campaign that showed him leading the pack with 16 percent to Rilling’s 12, with Mangiacopra and Andy Garfunkel tied at 4 percent. 64 percent of the 300 people surveyed were either undecided or refused to answer.

“I’m a little disappointed in the turnout – 15 percent of the Democrats registered to vote in Norwalk voted,” Miklave said Tuesday night. “I think that’s unfortunate given the historic nature of the election and the important issues that the city is facing. I think that’s a disappointment. “

Miklave wound up third with 501 votes. He didn’t win a single precinct, came in second in three, third in nine and fourth in one. Several districts were close between the second, third and fourth-place finishers.

Mangicopra won only one precinct, placing second in 10 and third in three. Garfunkel was third in one precinct.

The highest turnouts were:

A4 Nathan Hale 27.65 percent (47 voters)

E2 Rowayton 26.81 percent (207)

D2 West Rocks 25.17 percent (529)

The lowest turnouts were:

A2 St. Mary 16.7 percent (146)

D1 Ponus 18.54 percent (205)

The rest of the precincts saw turnouts between 19.5 and 20.87 percent.

Here is the precinct breakdown, candidates listed alphabetically:

A1 Tracey: Garfunkel, 31, Mangiacopra 53, Miklave 39, Rilling 126

A2 St. Mary: Garfunkel 10, Mangiacopra 41, Miklave 20, Rilling 75

A3 Kendall: Garfunkel, 21, Mangiacopra 34, Miklave 37, Rilling 87

A4 Nathan Hale: Garfunkel, 5, Mangiacopra 6, Miklave 16, Rilling 20

B1 Columbus: : Garfunkel, 35, Mangiacopra 149, Miklave 32, Rilling 261

B2 Nat Ely: Garfunkel, 11, Mangiacopra 25, Miklave 12, Rilling 63

C1 Marvin: Garfunkel, 30, Mangiacopra 64, Miklave 62, Rilling 150

C2 Nathan Hale: Garfunkel, 50, Mangiacopra 71, Miklave 76, Rilling 147

D1 Ponus: Garfunkel, 20, Mangiacopra 45, Miklave 24, Rilling 116

D2 West Rocks: Garfunkel, 76, Mangiacopra 97, Miklave 79, Rilling 277

E1 Brookside: Garfunkel, 14, Mangiacopra 39, Miklave 32, Rilling 129

E2 Rowayton: Garfunkel, 8, Mangiacopra 102, Miklave 22, Rilling 75

E3 Fox Run: Garfunkel, 29, Mangiacopra 55, Miklave 50, Rilling 177

Registered Democrats: 15,985

Total votes: 3,325 (20.8 percent)



9 responses to “Low Norwalk primary turnout ‘disappointing’”

  1. EastNorwalkChick

    I find it very sad that many people don’t vote in their local elections and only vote in the national elections.
    Determining who runs your local government has far more immediate impact on your daily life than a national election ever will.
    I just don’t get the apathy towards local elections.

  2. M Allen

    First, even in terms of national elections, primaries tend to attract far fewer voters than the general election. Sadly, even in the general election, far too many voters have no idea about the issues that seaparate candidates and just can’t be bothered to go out and vote. Push that to a primary and the results are even worse.
    Second, are we surprised by turnout for this priamry or even the general election for our local offices? If we wanted higher turnout, we would peg our local elections to a national election calendar. We’re trying to encourage turnout from voters who are already apathetic or outright lazy. When doing it in a completely off-year cycle, what do you expect the outcome to be?

  3. Dennis DiManis

    November turnout might break 10,000. Maybe. Most residents see no reason to care, and don’t believe that their interests will be represented by some old career politician or other.

  4. Nora King

    Rowayton voted the right way!

  5. Norwalk Spectator

    @M. Allen,

    The current term for Mayor and Council Members in Norwalk is 2 years. In order to change that, you would have to change the City Charter.

    The Norwalk Board of Education has four year terms, but those nine seats are also staggered to prevent a totally new Board from being elected at one time.

    U.S. Senators serve terms of six years each; the terms are staggered so that approximately one-third of the seats are up for election every two years. U.S. Representatives have two year election cycles.

    By lumping all the elections together on a four year cycle, the voter turn out would most likely be even less since the ballot would probably be at least two pages long. Also, it increases the risk of having both the Federal Government change completely along with the local government.

  6. M Allen

    I recognize the Charter change that would be required. But aside from that, I’m fairly certain that the two-year schedule upon which we vote for national office holders would account for the variation in terms and staggered terms we have here in Norwalk. State and national elections happen every two years. I don’t think there is a requirment that local offices can only be voted on in odd-numbered years. But who knows, it wouldn’t surprise me if that was the case 🙂
    Of course, putting local elections on the same ballot as state and national elections would result in a longer ballot. But which would you prefer: a more representative turnout of voters or a longer ballot that they might actually have to read? We’re not punching chads here so I’m betting our voters could probably figure it out.

  7. Don’t Panic

    There’s another problem with putting national and muni elections together. The districts for the polling places don’t line up. This is why some people alternate between polling places from one year to the next. Add in the taxing districts and that would be a nightmare for the registrars and the affected districts.

  8. Piberman

    Maybe Democratic voters are sending the DTC a message. Or maybe they see such a modest chance of success in November that they see little purpose in participating in a no win exercise. Or maybe the candidates didn’t fire up Democrats. Or maybe most residents are comfortable with Mayor Moccia. What does seem clear is that Norwalk Democratics will continue to not be a major political force in our City for the foreseeable fixture. After all the DTC and Democrats remained silent when two of the three Democrat members of the BOE voted against hiring Dr Riviera – a nationally prominent Supt and a Hispanic. Such an embarrassment ! Maybe Democrats are just irrelevant to Norwalk political life. Can anyone possibly imagine that a Democrat controlled BOE would have taken our hostile unions to Arbitration and hired a superb Hispanic Supt. ? If we can depend on Democrats to effectively contribute on the BOE why suppose they’d do better at Common Council ? Follow Gov Malloy’s tax policies and union favoritism ?

  9. NorwalkVoter

    Nora King needs to get over herself.

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