As of Wednesday morning at 10:45 a.m., election results in at least one race have been changed and updated since initial results were reported last night. Wilton town clerk Lori Kaback reached out to GOOD Morning Wilton to clarify that one of the candidates on the Republican slate in the race for the Planning & Zoning Commission won’t be seated, despite earning more votes than his Democratic opponents.

The candidates in the race earned votes in the following order:

Planning & Zoning–Full Term  (four seats open)

Melissa-Jean Rotini (unaffiliated/R slate)   2,871
Rick Tomasetti (R)   2,808
Matthew Murphy (R)  2,639
Jake Bittner (unaffiliated/R slate)   2,515
Florence Johnson (D)   2,304
Rem Bigosinski (D)   2,176

Jake Bittner, an unaffiliated voter who ran on the Republican slate was the fourth-highest vote getter in a race that needed to fill four seats. Even though Bittner is not a registered Republican, Kaback says that according to state law he’s considered a Republican when it comes to minority representation rules for determining how many members of one party can serve on a board or commission. (The same goes for the highest vote-getter in the race, Melissa-Jean Rotini.)

“Minority representation went into effect because he was considered a Republican. Unfortunately, due to minority representation, he did not win. Florence Johnson won,” Kaback said.

Kaback points to CGS 9-167(g) as the statute that supports this. That section states:  “…any person whose candidacy for election to an office is solely as the candidate of a party other than the party with which he is enrolled shall be deemed to be a member of the party of which he is such candidate.”

Connecticut’s General Statutes minority representation laws limit the number of members of the same political party on elected and appointed boards and commissions. “Once candidates from the same party fill the maximum allowable slots, the highest vote getters from any other party or parties, or independents (candidates who are not affiliated with a political party), fill the remaining positions.” [1]

On boards of nine members, like P&Z, minority representation dictates that the maximum number of seats one party can occupy is six.

Following state law, the first P&Z seat that was determined in last night’s election was the vacant two-year term, which was won by Republican Jill Warren. She joins two other Republicans currently on P&Z who weren’t up for re-election.

Town officials then determined that only three of the four open full-year seats could be filled by candidates running on the Republican slate. As a result, Bittner won’t be able to be seated, despite not being a registered Republican. In the eyes of the state and state law, he’s considered a Republican.

Instead, Democrat Florence Johnson, the next highest vote getter, will be seated.

Republican Town Committee chair Bill Lalor isn’t ready to take that at face value. “Based on the vote tallies, all five of our candidates prevailed. If there’s an issue or concern regarding minority representation, we will have a look.”

Tom Dubin, chair of the Democratic Town Committee, learned about the adjustment when GOOD Morning Wilton reached out for comment. He only spoke to how Johnson will add to the P&Z Commission.

“Florence is a long-time resident of Wilton and has been following and studying P&Z issues for many years. We’re pleased that she will have a direct voice on Planning & Zoning.”

Even Town Clerk Kaback agrees that the fine-tooth reading of the law can be surprising:  “It’s so confusing,” she said, adding, “We also talked to the Secretary of State just to confirm as far as minority representation. We were pretty sure, but we wanted to confirm that with [state election director] Ted Bromley in the Secretary of State’s office.”

Additional Clarification   

Kaback also sent out a clarified result sheet this morning with clearer indication of all winners (based on preliminary votes counts, awaiting certification from the Secretary of State). It noted that five of the six candidates for constable will be seated, rather than just three, as GMW reported last evening. While voters could select three candidates in the race, five candidates in total won constable spots:

Chris Gardner  2435
Lianne Acosta-Rua  2428
Raymond Tobiassen  2163
Ernie Ricco  2080
Bo Mitchell  2042
Paul Soley 1846

[1] “Minority Representation on Municipal Boards” Research Report, Office of Legislative Research, Dec. 20, 2017