Election Day: Darien voters turnout steady despite the rain
Updated 2:22 pm, Wednesday, November 8, 2017
DARIEN — Over 3,000 residents came out to vote, some in a heavy rain that began in the afternoon and continued into the night, pushing their chosen candidates over the finish line Tuesday.
Less than an hour after the closed at 8 p.m., tallies by the registrar of the voters’ office declared Jayme Stevenson, the Republican first selectman incumbent, the winner of a fourth consecutive term with 2,470 votes. Democrat Rob Richards obtained 944 votes, leaving him out of the board of selectmen, and unaffiliated candidate Chris Noe garnered only 24 votes, according to unofficial results from the Secretary of State’s office.
“A fantastic outcome for Susan, ‘Kip’ and I. A win for the town of Darien,” Stevenson said at the Republican celebration at The Goose on Boston Post Road.
The Board of Selectmen will now include Republican members Stevenson, Charles ‘Kip’ Koons and Susan Marks. Democratic members will be incumbent Marc Thorne and newcomer Pamela Sparkman.
Voter turnout was steady throughout the day even as it began to rain around 4 p.m.
“I have seen a lot of wet people but turnout hasn’t been affected by the rain,” said Heather Pomernelle, the poll moderator at District 1 who was in an optimistic mood despite the weather. “I think turnout has been better than expected today.”
Taking advantage of the steady stream of residents who showed up to vote, Allan Bixler and his wife Sharon stationed themselves outside the Noroton Heights Fire Department to raise money for Wreaths Across America, a group that commemorates veterans’ graves with wreaths.
“This is the first year we could do this by the polls. We had to obtain permission from the first selectman,” said Bixler, himself a veteran. “So far it has been a very good effort.”
By 6 p.m., about 22 percent of voters had cast ballots and a total of 3,438 residents eventually voted for first selectman.
Besides the race for the town’s top job, one of the other few contested races in Darien was in District 2 for the Representative Town Meeting. According to unofficial results from the Secretary of the State’s Office, Vincent C. Arguimbau III was the candidate who accrued the least votes, totaling in at 251. Instead, William F. Cusack III, Timothy M. Goertel, Susanne R. Handler, Monica M. McNally, Helen M. (Nina) Miller, Iris B. Mix, Heather Pommernelle and Stacey Tie earned the right to represent RTM District 2.
Although District 2 was contested, the rest of the RTM districts were not, with vacancies still existing in several: District 1 has two vacancies, District 4 has four vacancies and District 5 has three vacancies.
As Darien has a 100-member RTM, it’s common to have vacancies in the districts and for members to be appointed after elections via a caucus. Residents who know of vacancies can apply to become a member and will be reviewed by their respective district before being accepted or denied. Residents chosen by a caucus only serve until the next election, however, as opposed to the normal two-year term of an RTM member.
Much work goes behind the scenes in preparation for Election Day. Poll workers Janet Offut and Clara Sartori said they got to Town Hall polls at 5 a.m. to start setting up the machines.
Later that day, Lisa Fucito showed up to Town Hall to cast her ballot, though she had some complications
“Apparently you can’t ‘X’ out a candidate and I made a mistake and picked the wrong person so I tried to go back and ‘X’ out and then circle in the other bubble. It invalidated my ballot but I had a chance to re-do it,” she said.
Meanwhile, over at Noroton Heights Fire Department, where District 3 cast their ballots, the Election Day workers got creative with ways to entertain the children who accompanied their parents to vote.
“We have a worker who made make-shift ballots for the kids,” said poll moderator Lambros Papaeconomou.
While students did not have class on Tuesday, Hindley Elementary School still saw a number of faces in its hallways as voting for District 4 took place there, the only poll location hosted at a school in Darien.
Previous elections had been held at more local schools but the specter of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting of 2012 remains prevalent, according to Susan K. Gray, the Democratic registrar of voters.
“We don’t really have elections in schools anymore because of the Newtown shooting and security issues,” she said. “Everyone who goes into a school has to be vetted and they have to get identification and we found that was impossible.”
The 2012 school shooting was also in the back of Steve Anderson’s mind.
“A lot of schools used to be voting places but then came the issue of security after the Newtown shooting,” said Anderson, a poll worker at Hindley Elementary. “There were security requirements by the school that we could not meet.”