FAIRFIELD – Candidates are still awaiting the results of the Nov. 7 election on Wednesday morning, which election officials attributed to a high volume of in-person votes from college students and a printing issue with some absentee ballots.
In a Wednesday email to CT Examiner, Registrar Matthew Waggner said election officials have counted in-person and absentee ballot votes, but are waiting on approval from the head moderator before announcing the official results. He anticipated that the moderator’s approval would come sometime this afternoon.
Current unofficial results from the Registrar of Voters put Democratic first selectman candidate Bill Gerber ahead of Republican incumbent Brenda Kupchick by only 42 votes, with Gerber earning 8966 votes and Kupchick earning 8924.
The unofficial results also put Gerber’s running mate, Christine Vitale, ahead of Kupchick’s running mate, Brian Farnen, by 820 votes.
Gerber’s campaign sent out a press release at about 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday to declare victory. But Kupchick’s campaign told CT Examiner that there will likely be an automatic recount due to the tight margin.
Asked about the delay in the unofficial results, Waggner said officials had to count a “larger than normal” amount of in-person ballots on election night, and pointed to an influx in election day registrations by college students.
“Because of the closeness of the results and the large college student participation in Election Day registration, we had a larger than normal number of and interest in the hand-counted ballots, which wrapped up very late last night,” he said.
Waggner also said that a “printing problem” meant that election officials had to count some of the absentee ballots by hand last night, but didn’t give the issue much weight.
“We spent some time securing the materials instead of data entry overnight because of the closeness of the FS race. Nothing too unusual in that regard,” Waggner said of the absentee ballot count.
Late into the night on Election Day, at Boca Grille and Raw Bar, local Democrats huddled around a television watching the preliminary results roll in to see if they had flipped the executive seat. According to their 11:30 p.m. counts, Gerber won at the polls over Kupchick by 195 votes. But Democrats were still anticipating the absentee ballot and election day registration count.
As they watched the counts update, Elizabeth Zezima, the Democratic majority leader on the Representative Town Meeting, pointed to college student participation as the reason for the delay.
Zezima alleged to CT Examiner that Kupchick and Farnen had canvassed Fairfield University ahead of the Nov. 7 election and warned students of a recently approved noise ordinance, introduced by Democrats on the RTM.
“There was a strong push by Brenda and Brian who actually campaigned there to get students out to vote,” Zezima said. “What I hear is that there was a big push, and you can see it, apparently, in the numbers at town hall.”
A Tuesday article by the Fairfield Mirror reports that some Fairfield University students were encouraging others to vote for the Republican candidates through Fizz – a social app for college students – and GroupMe – a messaging app. Among the student messages were warnings that the noise ordinance meant they could no longer hold events or parties after 6 p.m., when police would start to enforce a townwide decibel restriction.
The actual noise ordinance, which was adopted by the Democrat-led RTM in August, states that excessive noise is prohibited from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. on weekdays, and 11 p.m. to 8 a.m. on weekends.
Kupchick’s campaign did not respond to a CT Examiner request for comment on college student participation prior to publication.