Registrars Deliver Delayed Election Details, Explain Issues Affecting Results
Editor’s Note: This report updates all ballot counts, turnout percentages, and details following the November 8 elections and referendum, many of which were reported incorrectly in last week’s print edition.
One week after Election Day, the Newtown Registrars of Voters office forwarded “final certified” local ballot counts to The Newtown Bee, along with a requested explanation detailing why election night ballot counts were initially provided in error, and were subsequently updated twice.
Below are the final local vote counts and related balloting details as provided:
In Newtown, 13,120 of the community’s 19,371 registered voters (including 96 who qualified to register on Election Day) cast ballots — a nearly 68% turnout (67.7%). The Town Clerk’s Office accepted 1,473 absentee ballots of which 28 were rejected. There were three additional Overseas Ballots accepted, and two of the same-day ballots were rejected.
Newtown’s ballot also included three questions. The first, a statewide Constitutional question on whether to approve early voting in future elections received 7,251 yes votes versus 5,064 voting no. The measure passed statewide.
A local Charter question asking if voters wished to eliminate the Board of Finance saw 3,161 favoring and 7,678 against, meaning the Board of Finance will continue to exist as it is currently framed in the local constitutional document. However, a second local Charter question asking voters to approve a raft of other procedural revisions was approved on a slim margin, 5,291 yes to 4,793 no.
State Rep Mitch Bolinsky, the Republican 106th District incumbent running unopposed, received 7,632 votes.
In Newtown’s section of the State House District 107 race, local voters favored Republican Marty Foncello, with 496 votes, a slight lead over Democrat Phoebe Holmes, who received 474 votes. There were also 18 votes cast in the 107th race for Working Families Party candidate Phoebe Holmes. Foncello captured the open seat.
For State Senate District 28, Newtown favored Republican Tony Hwang, with 6,878 votes, over Democrat Tim Gavin, with 6,053 votes, of which 202 were cast on the Independent line.
In the governor’s race locally, Democrat Ned Lamont topped challenger Robert Stefanowski 6,949 to 5,949, with Independent Party candidate Robert Hotaling receiving 104 votes. Of the total votes cast for the incumbent, 175 came on the Working Families Party line, and 32 were cast on the Griebel Frank for CT minor party line.
For the US Senate seat, Newtown voted for Democrat Richard Blumenthal, with 7,062 votes over Republican Leora Levy, with 5,884. Of that total, 222 Blumenthal votes were cast on the Working Families party line. This race locally also registered three write-in votes for John Anderson.
Locally, 5th District US Congressional incumbent Jahana Hayes registered a total of 6,720 votes to GOP challenger George Logan, who captured 6,227 votes. Of the total, Hayes received 224 votes on the Working Families Party line, and Logan received 108 votes on the Independent Party line.
For Secretary of the State locally, Democrat Stephanie Thomas had 6,594 votes, to Republican Dominic Rapini’s 5,896, and Independent Party candidate Cynthia R. Jennings’ count of 307. Of Thomas’ total count, 219 came from the Working Families Party line.
For Attorney General, Democrat William Tong bested his challengers in Newtown, with 6,738 votes — while Republican Jessica Kordas had 5,911, Independent Party candidate A.P. Pascarella had 156 votes, and Green Party candidate Ken Krayeske had 53 votes. Of Tong’s total, 218 votes were cast on the Working Families Party line.
For Treasurer, Democrat Erick Russell received 6,220 votes, Republican Harry Arora received 6,188 votes, Independent Party candidate Jennifer Baldwin tallied 301 votes, and Libertarian Party candidate JoAnna Laiscell received 76 votes. Russell’s total count included 213 votes on the Working Families Party line.
For Comptroller, Democrat Sean Scanlon had the most Newtown votes, with a tally of 6,569, while Republican Mary Fay received 6,176 votes. Out of Scanlon’s total count, 212 votes were registered on the Independent Party line, and 193 were cast on the Working Families Party line.
For the 45th district Probate Judge seat, Newtown voters preferred Republican Jennifer Collins of Ridgefield with 6,627 votes (287 from the Independent Party line), over Democrat Steven Boa Demoura, with 6,057 votes. However, district-wide, it was Bethel’s Demoura who captured the seat with 51.6% of the total votes.
Registrars Detail Challenges
Democratic Registrar LeReine Frampton and Republican Registrar Erica Canfield collaborated on responding to The Newtown Bee’s queries about Election Day and post-election issues that contributed to the late and initially incorrect ballot information.
According to Frampton, as balloting closed on Election day, November 8, “we had 19,273 registered voters. When I went to enter the number of absentees we received at noon I had to put in the number of registered voters. Since I did not have final numbers I just put 6,000 in for each district. When I was inputting the tabulator tapes, I corrected Reed and the high school but forgot to change 1-6 and 1-7 when I entered the Middle School.”
While absentee ballots become available in early October, the registrars explained that they “...can only count ballots of eligible voters on November 8th. Therefore, if someone moved, died, or became a felon, their ballot was rejected.” However, the registrars said most rejects occur from the voter not following directions on the absentee ballot.
“The ballot needs to be included in the inner envelope, which is sealed and signed before being placed in the outer envelope to mail back. Quite a few people do not use the inner envelope, which means we cannot count their ballot. The two election day registration or EDR ballots were rejected because voters filled out the information on the envelope but did not sign the ballots. The signature is important because the disclaimer above the signature notifies you of penalties for fraud,” the registrars stated.
“For those watching our online report, the original absentee numbers entered are the ones we checked off of our voting list,” the registrars continued. Those numbers suddenly increased mid-day because the registrars office received a number of absentees that came in Monday, November 7.
“The absentee ballots that come in on Election Day are given to us at the close of the polls since people have until 8 pm to turn them in,” the voting officials said. “Before they can be counted we have to check them off in [documents from] the polls to verify they did not vote at the polls as well.”
However, at 8 pm the polls are closing and workers are preparing to run each polling site’s totals.
“We cannot mark off the books until they return them to the office once they are finished at the polls. The first district came in at 9:30 pm. Once all the district [moderators] came into the office and were checked off, the number of absentees jumped again,” the registrars said. “It took over two hours to process the ballots turned in that day.”
Other issues involving post-election reporting, the registrars said, had to do with the most recent redistricting, which removed Newtown from being part of the 112th and Second statehouse districts, and adding a number of neighborhoods in northwest Newtown to the 107th District. Redistricting also changed the in-town district borders, causing numerous voters to be assigned a new polling location since November 2021.
This latest redistricting prompted the local registrars to have to change voter information going into the statewide Centralized Voter Registration System (CVRS). That new information is then provided to the Town Clerk, who warned voters of the polling location changes in a September Legal Notice in The Newtown Bee, and online at newtownbee.com.
To ensure all voters were properly notified of changes, the Registrars Office also mailed large, bright postcards to each household in June (ahead of a Republican primary in August); put information on the registrars page of the town website, and on the Town Clerk’s page; and additionally posted information on the Newtown Registrars Facebook page on June 2 announcing the postcard mailing
The registrars also posted the new voting district map on their Facebook page on November 1; other websites promoted information on or about August 8 as a reminder, with a link to Secretary of State for polling locations; and The Bee ran a February 8 (2022) article about redistricting made easy for voters, a June 9 article warning voters to watch for the informational postcards, published an additional August 4 reminder in the “Editorial Ink Drops,” and an additional reminder to voters with details on the front page of the edition before Election Day.
The Final Stretch
After starting their work day by 6 am on Election Day, polling place staff continue working after the polls close and the final machine ballots have been cast.
“By 8 pm when they have to balance and close, they have been working a very long day on things that strain their eyes,” Frampton said. “Then, they have to count the lines of who voted to balance with the machine to make sure all ballots are included. I can guarantee that every poll worker is just as excited to end this day as those waiting for the results.”
While poll work is confined to Election and referendum days, this year, the registrars and their staff began their poll-related work on Monday, November 7 preparing and arranging for polling equipment to be relocated to the polling sites.
Then, as the registrars explained, “we have to check off the absentees — the number has more than doubled this year — we shop for perishables for the poll workers, and then we set up the polls. Tuesday we start at 4:30 am [finishing] setting up the polls and making sure all the machines are working and set up for EDRs.
“We register voters through EDR all day — these are not included on the online numbers until we update after everything is in. We answer calls all day and deal with issues at the polls. We check absentees mid-day that were received on Monday. We try to ensure smooth sailing at the polls,” the registrars continued. “After 8 pm on Election Day, we receive the ballots returned that day; we enter EDR ballots and get ready to receive the papers from the polls; we check off the absentees as we receive the books; then we process the absentees to get totals.
“We have to process write-ins and account for every write-in; we verify hand counts, overseas and federal ballots; and we verify provisional ballots if there is any.”
To get final totals, each district is entered into the computer. Each district has totals from the tabulator, hand count, and write-ins for each polling place and EDR, along with absentees.
“This means nine lists of numbers for each of the four districts,” the registrars said. The statistic numbers are entered for each district as well, along with the ballot question results.
“We are allowed to send in preliminary numbers and have 48 hours to complete entering everything,” the registrars said. “We feel that everything should go in before releasing totals. There is always at least one close vote.
“How would you feel if you went to bed thinking you won and woke up the loser? Would we then hear the vote was fixed or false numbers? More Democrats vote absentee than Republicans, and this can change close votes,” they continued. “We try for accuracy and complete returns. We stay until finished. And we go back after a few hours sleep to check for accuracy again.
“As always, we are subject to the temperament of technology,” the voting officials concluded. “Machines break and Wi-Fi goes down. We deal with these issues. They may slow us down but they don’t stop us.”
Editor John Voket can be reached at email@example.com.