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Expensive Norwalk Recount Changes Nothing

NORWALK, Conn. — Ruth Perry and Judy Lametta got their subpoenas last week and dutifully reported to City Hall on Monday – to spend hours examining ballots in the Common Council chambers in a recount of last week's election.

The women had agreed to the chore; the subpoenas were a formality. More than 30 people toiled to see that democracy was served. But at the end of the day, no upset had occurred. The results show the same lineup of Common Council members at large that was named by Norwalk's registrars last Wednesday and Democrat Michael Barbis was still the winner of the District E Board of Education race.

Republican incumbents Doug Hempstead, Fred Bondi and Joanne Romano will serve on the council again along with Democrats Anna Duleep and Warren Pena. Four votes separated Romano and fellow Republican John Tobin in Wednesday's count; nine votes separate them now. Democratic hopeful Sharon Stewart remains in seventh place. A total of 10 candidates competed for the five at-large positions.

Barbis had led Republican Geoff Kieburtz by one vote in the Board of Education race. He finished the recount 12 votes ahead.

The recount was mandated because the votes were within 1 percent of the total. Romano and Tobin waived their right to a recount, but Stewart allowed it to proceed. She had been 25 votes behind Tobin, 26 votes from being on the council. She is now 35 votes behind Romano for the fifth place spot that gets a candidate onto the council.

Emily Wilson, head moderator for the 2011 election held Nov. 8, had sent officials an estimate of $10,000 to do the recount. All of the workers were paid for their efforts, and the expenses included supplies and food for everyone. At 3 p.m., about 25 people were at work and one team was out on a break, Registrar Karen Doyle Lyons said.

Wilson had based that estimate on the time it took to do a similar recount in 2009: 12 hours. Monday's crew began at 9 a.m. and emailed results at 7:46 p.m.

Most of the people working had served as moderators in last week's election. Most seemed excited to be working on a vote again. "This is Kendall," said state Rep. Chris Perone, pointing at a large blue cart. All of the ballots from Kendall Elementary School were in the cart.

Their chore was to make sure the ballots were marked correctly so that tabulators could read them. "A lot of people don't know how to vote, still," said Margaret Bennette.

Ovals were not completely filled in, and some ballots simply had an x going through an oval.

"I think there's a little some confusion on the part of the elderly, how to fill in some things," said Kim Mac Leod. "There's a pattern of confusion."

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