NORWALK, Conn. – It doesn’t matter to Norwalk’s registrars one bit if the wife of a candidate was helping to run a poll in Thursday’s Norwalk city-wide election, Assistant Democratic Registrar Bob Sodaro said Friday.
“It’s not us, it’s a party thing,” Sodaro said of the Town Committee elections held last week. The registrars are involved in the process because elections are what they do, but there are no specific rules, no regulations and no training for those involved in what is always a very small election, he said.
Events Thursday at Kendall Elementary School, where Democrats voted to elect Democratic Town Committee, have created a bit of a controversy. Kathleen Watts, wife of District A Chairman and DTC candidate David Watts, checked in voters and got involved in counting ballots. Some people have expressed an opinion that this was unfair.
“Would it have worked better if somebody who’s got a personal stake because their relative is on the ballot wasn’t taking ballots …? Yeah, that would have worked better for us,” Sodaro said. “But again, there’s no specific rule that prevents that. But there’s nothing we can do, its not our election, it’s the party’s election. We’re just officiating it. We’re officiating it mostly because, on some level, it’s the same with the taxing districts. They could run their own election, they don’t need us. But it’s more convenient.”
David Watts took time Friday to defend his wife, who, he said, stepped in at the last minute when an elderly woman who had volunteered to be the checker backed out because of the cold temperatures.
“My wife did a great job,” he said. Several people were turned away because they weren’t registered as Democrats, he said. They were people who came to vote for him, he said.
When the polls closed, David Watts and Andy Garfunkel took the ballots out of the box. They counted the ballots, but did not agree on a total.
At that point, those present wanted someone neutral to count them again. The only person there who wasn’t a candidate, other than this reporter, was Kathleen Watts. She did it.
Watts read the votes aloud, and Garfunkel and others marked them on a sheet. The problem arose when Watts read the names too fast. Several people making the marks could not keep up with him, causing confusion. Garfunkel asked him several times to slow down. He did not.
There were 43 ballots cast. The winning candidates were never in question. The number of votes that Matt Miklave and Rosa Murray got was. Both are now endorsed candidates and will be on the DTC again if no one challenges the results.
Sodaro said he has heard of no one in any district who is considering doing that. They would need to have about 150 people (based on a percentage) sign a petition by Jan. 29 to make that happen.
There are only so many people you can call upon to help out in a town committee election, Sodaro said.
“It’s difficult to not have somebody who is associated with someone running for office because who are you going to get? Everybody knows everybody in town. You’ve got to have somebody,” he said.
Sometimes people help with elections in other districts, a swap, he said. An alternative might be to have Republicans run the Democrats election and vice versa, but that would hardly work, he said.
“You get silly after a while,” he said. “You’ve got to trust somebody.”