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Election Day: The Calm After the Storm

Voter turnout was lower by noon than it was for municipal elections in 2009 and 2007. Officials believe last weekend's snowstorm and massive power outages led to increased apathy.

Two power company trucks made their way up Fan Hill Road before turning onto Knorr Road late Tuesday morning and a worker directed traffic for a tree crew on Cutlers Farm Road in the afternoon. Monroe's municipal election is being held under a clear blue sky on a warm, spring-like November day, but remnants of last weekend's snowstorm and townwide power outages still linger.

Outside a polling place at Fawn Hollow Elementary School, candidates and supporters held up signs and greeted voters, who trickled in several minutes apart.

Karen Burnaska, head moderator at the polls, believes the aftermath of the storm is behind the low voter turnout.

"I think they are coming off a very difficult week," said Burnaska, the former first selectman. "We have people coming here who still don't have cable."

Most homeowners and some businesses were left without electricity, water and phone service for a week or longer. As of Tuesday morning, Connecticut Light & Power's outage map showed 12 Monroe customers still waiting to get their power back.

As of noon, 1,458 people voted, accounting for 11.4 percent of the total electorate, according to Burnaska, who added at the same time two years ago turnout was 15.6 percent and that 13.6 percent had voted by noon in 2007.

"I think it's the storm," said Susan Koneff, Democratic Registrar of Voters.

"I think so too," Jeannette Benson, the Republican Registrar, agreed.

Koneff said, "I think people are too busy getting their lives back to normal. Hopefully they'll come later in the day — and that could possibly happen."

She also wondered whether people who missed a significant amount of work hours from the storm aftermath may not have been able to get to the polls before work Tuesday morning.

"We can only guess," Koneff said of the low turnout.

According to the Registrars Office, Monroe has 12,833 registered voters, including 6,962 unaffiliated, 3,284 Republicans, 2,553 Democrats and 34 classified as "other."

First Selectman Candidates in Good Spirits

First Selectman Steve Vavrek greeted voters in the Fawn Hollow Elementary School parking lot. He believes there is "a little apathy" from the storm and said some people told him they were upset over a negative tone during the campaign.

"Some people told me they voted for me because they're tired of the negativity out there," Vavrek said. "And some believe the hype."

Despite talk of negativity, the first selectman expressed a positive outlook on Election Day. "We are moving the town forward and I'm fairly confident with the responses I've gotten that people see that," he said. "But I am not resting on my laurels. Heck no. I'm here 24/7. I'm happy with the town. I feel we're moving in the right direction."

His challenger, Democrat, Phyllis Kansky also had high hopes.

"I'm feeling very up actually. I'm feeling good," she said, while standing outside the polls at Masuk High School. "I feel very confident that I will take this. I've worked hard and the Democratic Town Committee worked hard. I look forward to a victory tonight."

This election season has seemed quiet, but Kansky said the reason for her optimism stems from a phone campaign, which included 1,000 calls to the third district alone. Most of the people who answered their phone were open minded and positive, according to Kansky.

What about many of the calls made her feel confident?

"People said that they'll vote for me," Kansky said with a smile.

Mario Miscione November 08, 2011 at 10:06 PM
I think the low turnout is more likely related to the candidates and not the weather.
Mother of 2 and a voter! November 09, 2011 at 01:22 AM
And have you put yourself out there to better our community Mario?
Wolfe November 09, 2011 at 01:35 AM
I have to agree with Mario. We don't exactly have a great slate to choose from. I still have no idea what Kansky would do if she were elected because she never told us. The same goes for Vavrek. And why is there only one candidate for tax collector each and every election? Doesn't anyone have the guts to run against him?
Mario Miscione November 09, 2011 at 01:50 AM
Not sure how my activities mesh with the article or my comment.
Anne November 09, 2011 at 02:04 AM
I have to agree with Mario and David on this one. Not much of a selection in either party but yes I did vote today. I don't believe last weeks power outages and weather has a thing to do with people not getting out to vote.
Schap November 09, 2011 at 02:53 AM
Maybe a true assessment by the administration of the Town could address why (if it turns out) a low turn out? Is it the get the vote out campaign? Is it the polling places? Do people really care that have to travel out of the area for their jobs? What stance did any of the candidates really take to draw citizens to the poles? What motivates people to vote? No one showed up for the Debate at Masuk High School (60 out of 12,000) and really nothing was said that moved me by either candidate.Everyone always wants substance and the truth and it appears all I heard was pointing fingers about how many crews were in Bethel and who said she said. People hate to go past Monroe El after 5:30 PM because it is so hard to get past the polling place. Stepney didn't have enough parking places and it was a very low turn out. People from Stanley road had to travel to Fawn Hollow and people close to Fawn Hollow had to vote at Stepney? Just like we did not discuss closing of Chalk Hill or if we should look elsewhere for the new or remodeled million $ + police station, maybe we should start now by having a survey for the citizens of the town to find out why voting might be so low..When two really good teams oppose each other people show up. When the town promotes a really good production at the schools people show up. When the town gives the citizens the opportunity to do something that benefits all we show up. Hopefully next time there will be improvements and people will show up.
Debbie November 09, 2011 at 03:28 AM
Congrats Steve Vavrek!
Forma Bosse November 09, 2011 at 02:18 PM
I'm with you, David. When I saw in the Courier that most of the candidates would win because of running unopposed or a limited number of candidates, we said "why bother"? Not having a choice is no choice at all.
Mary November 09, 2011 at 07:03 PM
David and Forma—If you don't like people running unopposed, you are welcome to run for one of the positions yourself. I understand it is frustrating… I totally agree. But don't complain if you aren't willing to do anything about it. And DON'T not vote because you feel like it is pointless. If you don't vote, you REALLY can't complain!! Lots of people died for our right to vote. I don't take that lightly.

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