NORWALK, Conn. – Guess who got the most votes in last week’s municipal election? The mysterious “Mr. Blank.”
It’s something Town Clerk Rick McQuaid says will haunt him for a long time, only because Democratic Registrar Stuart Wells will make sure it never goes away – although McQuaid was running unopposed in his first drive toward re-election, he only got 59 percent of the vote.
“They voted for blank instead of me,” McQuaid said, with a laugh. “Stuart Wells is never going to let me forget it.”
Sitting on a table in McQuaid’s office is a printout, made by Wells, showing in a large, bold typeface the results of the election: McQuaid 9,972, Blanks 6,759.
McQuaid has been in Norwalk politics since he was a teenager, but, “The blank thing is new.”
“I’ve got to go out and find this Mr. Blanks and have a chat with him,” McQuaid said. “He got a lot of votes on everybody’s line. Mr. Blank ends up with probably 20,000 votes, so I don’t know what happened.”
Guess again. There were 59,321 blank ovals on the 16,761 ballots cast.
McQuaid has a theory.
“Blanks for me is an obvious thing,” he said. “If you look at the numbers in certain areas where the Democrats ran extremely well, I have a lot of blanks because they (voters) just go in there and they draw that Democrat line and if they don’t see a line they jump over that empty space and keep coloring in their dots.”
Another local pol, who shall remain unnamed, has another theory: bullet voting. That, according to MtHolyoke.edu, is “when a voter votes for only one candidate, when he or she had the option of voting for more than one” — such as in the Common Council at-large race, where voters could vote for five of 10 candidates. There were 11,868 blanks “cast,” more than for any candidate. The theory is that, if the voter has a favorite or favorite rising above the others, voting for just the one or two candidates keeps the other from getting that extra boost.
But how, then, to explain the blank voters in the town clerk’s race, where only one person was listed?
“I laugh about the blanks, I really do, because it’s the first time I’ve seen it,” McQuaid said.
Here’s a list of the blanks, per race:
City treasurer 1,605
City sheriff 1,882
Town clerk 6,759
Council at large 11,868
Council A 829
Council B 754
Council C 845
Council D 896
Council E 746
1st Taxing District Commissioner 327
1st Taxing District Treasurer 374
2nd Taxing District Commissioner 1,405 (nearly half of the 1,604 ballots cast)
2nd Taxing District Treasurer 357
3rd Taxing District Commissioner 210
3rd Taxing District Treasurer 283
6th Taxing District Commissioner 250
6th Taxing District Treasurer 133