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Bracing for the ‘Busiest, Heaviest’ Election Cycle

By James Lomuscio

There are always absentee ballots, but in a presidential election in which there is no incumbent, that number spikes.

And this year in Westport is no different with 2,640 absentee ballots issued since they first became available Oct. 7. According to the Westport Registrar of Voters Office, 2,086 have been returned as of today.

And more could be coming in, even applied for, to hear Republican Registrar of Voters Kevin White tell it. Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon, the Town Clerk’s Office will be open for those who want to drop off their absentee ballots or apply for them. The office will also be open Monday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. for absentee ballots.

“It’s a constant for a presidential race with no incumbent,” said Town Clerk Patricia Strauss. “In 2008 we counted 2,599 absentee ballots.”

In 2012 when President Obama ran for reelection, that number was down by more than 100, 2,486.

Absentee ballots aside, Tuesday, Nov. 8, is expected to be one of the busiest days in years for polling officials.

“It’s a four-year cycle that we see, and we’re in the busiest, heaviest cycle now,” Strauss said.

The second busiest Election Day will be in 2017 with the Westport race for first selectman, she said. Activity dips a bit in the gubernatorial races, said Strauss.

The 2018 race for the governor’s mansion, based on past elections, is not expected to generate as much turnout, she added.

Ironically, elections that have the most direct impact on Westport’s citizens, such as a Board of Finance race, bring out the least number of electors.

Westport has a high percentage of unaffiliated voters, 6,414, compared to 4,677 registered Republicans and 6,832 Democrats.

Polls open at 6 a.m. and close at 8 p.m. at the town’s seven polling places: Coleytown Middle School; Westport Library; Saugatuck Elementary School, which has two; Green’s Farms Elementary School, which also has two; and Long Lots Elementary School.

In addition, there will be voting in the Town Hall auditorium for Election Day registration-voting from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Those who want to track local, state and national election results after 8 p.m. can visit http://ctemspublic.pcctg.net/#/selectTown

The state site is the result of a new election law that requires each municipality to report all results from its tabulator machines, including absentee ballots and Election Day registration votes.

“We will be uploading this information live,” said Strauss, saying that the results are “as close to real time as you can get.”

On Wednesday, Nov. 9, those results will be updated by town and city clerks to include hand counts and write-in votes.

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