No one could use the weather as an excuse for low voter turnout Tuesday in West Hartford – at least not the 70-degree sunny weather on Election Day.
However, at polling places all over town, turnout by early evening appeared to be even lower than usual for a municipal election.
Conard's lobby had more poll workers than voters at 3 p.m., even though the polling place had the additional attraction of providing a glimpse of the Conard vs. East Hartford football game being played at McKee Stadium. (Conard won, 47-0. Separate story will be posted on Wednesday.)
Election official Jerry Erwin said that because of concerns with power outages and storm cleanup, "I'm sure some people just forgot." Donna Mark, who was toting her four children, said she had nearly forgotten. Only 116 of the 845 registered voters in that district had cast their votes by 3 p.m.
At Webster Hil Elementary School, 343 of the 2,051 registered in district 5-1 had cast votes by 4 p.m. "It's been ongoing and continuous, but never a long line," said Muriel Williams who has worked at the polls for several years. Williams said the afternoon was busier than the morning, and since schools were closed, many voters had brought their kids.
It was quiet across town at King Philip Middle School, where the unofficial tally indicated that 400 voters out of 2,000 had cast votes by late afternoon.
Rich Schroeder, heading in to vote at King Philip Middle School, said during the power outage crisis he contemplated changing his vote to reflect his frustration with the lack of progress being made to restore electricity, but once things went "back to normal, I decided I wouldn't change my vote." His family had power restored to their home on Pocahontas Drive on Sunday night.
There were a few supporters standing in front of the 75-foot marker at Town Hall. Sue Rodriguez (sister of Town Council minority leader and candidate Denise Hall), Tony Landino (childhood friend of Republican Town Council candidate Jay Sarzen), and Dorothy Dieobi (who said Denise Hall is her boss) all thought the stream of voters had actually slowed by 5 p.m.
"I think there may be lower turnout because people just want to be in their homes," said Landino. Dieobi said on person told her she considered not voting because she was busy working in the yard.
Several candidates were stationed outside Braeburn School, with which nearly 3,000 registered voters, is the largest district in town. Town Council candidate Shari Cantor said, "There are a lot of elderly people who didn't come out to vote because they're too stressed [from the power outage situation]."
Minority leader and candidate Denise Hall was also at Braeburn, standing with fellow Republican candidate Jay Sarzen. Hall had been at Braeburn since 6 a.m. "In this area, a lot of people just got their power back last night," she said. Hall said that turnout at Braeburn for the 2009 municipal election was about 42 percent, but it seemed much slower today.
Until today, many – include the candidates – had not focused on the election for the past 10 days. Hall said no one had even been out campaigning since the storm hit.