ELECTION 2021: How Today’s Wilton Vote Recount Will Work

Wilton’s Registrars of Voters are conducting a recount today, Monday, Nov. 8, for two races that had voting results within 20 or fewer votes between an elected candidate and a defeated candidate. In the case of the Board of Finance race, with three seats to fill and four candidates, the difference between the third highest vote getter, Sandra Arkell (D), and Mantao “Monty” Du (R) was 12 votes. In the race for Constable, with six candidates vying for five spots, Dick Ziegler (D) in fifth had 19 more votes than Peter Wrampe (R).

In both cases, because the difference was less than 20 votes, the recount — or “recanvass” in Secretary of State parlance — is automatic unless the defeated party waives the recount; for Wilton’s municipal election, the Republican Town Committee has “exercised their statutory right to request a recount,” as registrar Karen Birck put it.

It’s called a “close vote recanvass.” But how will it work?

Location and Timing: The recount will take place Monday in the multipurpose room at Comstock Community Center, beginning at 10:30 a.m. It has to occur no later than five business days after the election.

Observers: Recanvass procedures and activities are open for public observation, and a portion of the Comstock multipurpose room will be set aside as a viewing area for the public. GOOD Morning Wilton will also be on hand to observe.

However, members of the public are prohibited from actively participating or interfering with the recount. The only person onsite with whom members of the public can address issues or raise questions is the moderator. No one — individuals or candidate representatives — can interfere, participate or communicate with recount officials.

Procedure: The Wilton registrars will follow the procedures outlined in the CT Secretary of State’s 2012 Recanvass Procedure Manual, which we quote from below in explaining the step-by-step procedure.

Double Set of Eyes

If there’s any theme to the recanvass, it’s that there will always be two sets of eyes — one each from the Democratic and Republican parties — at every step of the way. From the moment the ballots to be recounted leave secure storage through the review, counting, and verification process, two people from opposing parties will be involved.

The officials involved in the recount include the election’s head moderator; the registrars of voters; at least two official checkers of opposing political parties; at least two absentee ballot counters of opposing political parties who served at the election; and at least two ballot clerks of opposing political parties.

In this case, the head moderator of last Tuesday’s election was Kim Nabulsi. In addition to Birck, the Democratic registrar, the Republican registrar is Annalisa Stravato. The count may also involve Town Clerk Lori Kaback or members of the Town Clerk’s office staff.

Securing the materials

All of the ballots, worksheets and tally sheets and voting machinery and equipment that were used during the original election have been secured by the registrars and the town clerk. Every element — from ballots to memory cards in tabulating machines to absentee ballot inner- and outer envelopes — was secured with seals that will be verified to have been unbroken once the recount begins.

Together, all officials will determine that the tabulator and ballot box to be used for the recount are properly tested and set. The tabulator will then be set in election mode and the machine will print an “election zero report,” to confirm that the machine is prepared properly to begin recounting for the current election.

At this point, the recanvass officials will break the seal of the ballot transfer case to begin the recount.

Recounting Ballots — Machine-readable? Errors? Marking Defects?

  1. Two recanvass officials of opposing political parties will start with the absentee ballots that had been hand-counted on election day. Together, the two officials will unseal and open the envelopes with the absentee ballots and hand count the votes for the Board of Finance and Constable races.
  2. Next, two recounts officials of opposing political parties will open the envelopes with election day ballots that have write-in votes. The two officials will examine the ballots for any marking errors or defects that might cause the machine to incorrectly read the ballots. They’ll be looking for improperly marked ovals, ovals not filled in, and similar marks on the ballots. If an error or defect is found — or if there is a write-in for BOF or Constable — the ballot will be set aside for hand count. All other ballots in this group will be fed into the machine to be tabulated.
  3. Then, two recanvass officials of opposing political parties will examine the ballots counted by machine on election day, one by one, to determine whether the markings for the two races (BOF and Constable) are sufficiently clear to be read by the machine. Any ballots found to have an error, unclear voting mark or defect is set aside for hand counting. Ballots determined to be sufficiently clear to be read by both recanvass officials will be processed through the machine for tabulation.
  4. Any ballot counted by machine on election day, which either recanvass official of opposing political parties believes has marks that cannot be read by a tabulating machine, will be examined by the two officials. If they cannot agree on voter intent, the head moderator will make the final decision regarding the voter’s intention. The Recanvass Manual includes examples of ballot markings and how they’ve been interpreted before by the CT Supreme Court to assist moderators with making that decision.

5. The recanvass officials will then examine the discarded inner and outer envelopes of absentee ballots. Outer envelopes must be checked against inner envelopes and against the check list to verify postmarks, addresses and markings, and verify that the number of inner and outer absentee ballot envelopes is the same as the number of persons checked as having voted by absentee ballot.

The results from each step will be tallied and recorded and announced. Officials will again seal the envelopes and cases for the ballots, as well as for the tabulating machines.