Report by Paula Antolini
November 8, 2017 12:27AM EDT
Photo: Winning candidates First Selectman Matthew Knickerbocker (left) and Selectman Richard Straiton celebrating at the Democrat Headquarters on election night, November 7, 2017.
VIDEOS/PHOTOS: Bethel Democratic Incumbent First Selectman Knickerbocker Wins Fifth Term
In the election that took place on Tuesday, November 7, 2017, incumbent Matthew Knickerbocker (D) retained his position as Bethel First Selectman against Independent candidate Cynthia McCorkindale in a hard-fought battle. McCorkindale was also cross-endorsed by the Bethel Republican Party.
The vote tally was Knickerbocker 2942, McCorkindale 1819, with 61% of the votes going to Knickerbocker and 38% to McCorkindale. Knickerbocker will now begin his ninth year in office.
Knickerbocker said, “It was a very very long, very hard campaign. Our opponents put up a very strong fight, they were very well organized, they worked very hard, and when Ms. McCorkindale called a little while ago I commended her on a very well-organized campaign. But no, it wasn’t easy by an stretch of the imagination. We feel great today and we’re anxious to get back to work.”
Selectman Richard Straiton added that they got many new younger volunteers this year. “It’s great to see new people involved. Without these people in this room [Democrat HQ] we wouldn’t have had the margins that we want,” Straiton said. “I think this is because there is a resurgence in interest in local government and in politics in general,” Knickerbocker said.
Knickerbocker said the projects they will work on is to complete the police station, facilitate the renovation of the schools, begin the planning process for Parks and Recreation to have more recreation services in Bethel, a multi-million-dollar campaign in the utility department, the solar farm will open up in a few weeks, and that they want to become more financially self sufficient, to “plan for the future and make sure the finances are as good as they can be.”
Selectman Richard Straiton (D) and Selectman Paul Szatkowski (R) also retained their seats on the Board of Selectman with 57% and 38% respectively. Straiton had 2652 votes and Szatkowski 1983.
2017 Bethel Municipal Election Winners:
First Selectman, Matt Knickerbocker (2,935)
Selectman, Rich Straiton (2,652)
Selectman, Paul Szatkowski (1,983)
Town Clerk, Lisa Bergh (4,617)
Treasurer, Pat Smithwick (2,446)
Board of Finance:
Wendy Smith (2,453)
Robert Manfreda (2,363)
Dalene Foster (2,270)
Robert Palmer (2,271)
Board of Finance 2 Year Seat – Automatic Recount
Claudia Stephan (2,257) or
Bill Slifkin (2,244)
Board of Education:
Jen Ackerman (2,487)
Melanie O’Brien (2,417)
Jen Larsen (2,355)
Nick Hoffman (2,209)
Board of Assessment Appeals:
Will Duff (2,352)
Fern Blair Hart (2,233)
Gary Passineau (2,143)
Planning and Zoning:
Patricia Rist (2,377)
Kitty Grant (2,358)
Steve Deuschle (2,356)
Planning and Zoning Alternate:
Penny Kessler (2,369)
Zoning Board of Appeals:
Richard Lawlor (2,445)
Jay Streaman (2,425)
Eileen Freebairn (2,243)
Zoning Board of Appeals – 2 Year Seat:
Bobbi Jo Beers (3,417)
Zoning Board of Appeals:
Cyndie McGuire (2,158)
Inland Wetlands Commission:
Laura Ferguson (3,140)
Peter Samardak (3,029)
Ken Stevens (2,403)
Inland Wetlands Alternate:
Lou David (3,071)
Kevin Cleary (2,540)
Anthony Rubino (2,387)
Richard Kolwicz (2,244)
The election did not go off without a problem. At the Stony Hill Fire Department polling location a ballot became lodged in the tabulator machine near noon time, after a voter inserted his ballot. Bethel registrar Tim Beeble came to the rescue and helped other election officials get the machine to a point where it would be able to do the final vote count. As a precaution they did not use the machine for the rest of the day for any more ballots. There was a back up tabulator machine available so voting went on as normal.
Beeble said, “The voter was having a problem with his ballot which jammed in the tabulator. We believe that he fed the ballot in askew, so that as the tabulator pulled his ballot through, it started ripping the ballot diagonally. This caused a serious jam that rendered the tabulator inoperable. In the interim, subsequent voters placed their ballots in the Auxiliary Bin of the Ballot Box. The voter was given another ballot. The Moderator put the backup tabulator into service. I went up to Stony Hill to check out the jammed tabulator. I determined that a piece of the torn ballot was still lodged inside the roller mechanism, preventing another ballot from being read. Between the Moderator, the Assistant Registrars and me, we were able to clear the jam so that the tabulator could be prompted at 8 PM to print out the results of the 410 ballots that were processed prior to the jam.”
Beeble said that as of 6 pm we had a 33.6% turnout, and by evening it was approximately 41%.
We also observed that Bethel has an “Accessible Voting System” available to anyone with audio or visual impairment. This system has been in place for the last year, Beeble said. Bethel owns seven of the Accessible Voting System machines, one for each district and one for absentee votes, Beeble said.
While chatting with Jerri Snow at the CJH Municipal Center polling location, we learned that her son Alex Snow, a Bethel resident, was there with his guide dog, a yellow lab named Tango. He was kind enough to let us photograph him using the machine, which consists of a laptop, headphones and a small device with buttons to push, to select your candidate, and a printer. The machine then marks the ballot and prints it out and the voter then proceeds to the tabulator and inserts his marked ballot. Thank you to Moderator Carol Ritch and Election Official Mona Riccio who helped to coordinate the photo shoot. See photo below.
Photo: Bethel resident Alex Snow using the Accessible Voting System machine at the CJH Municipal Center polling location on November 7, 2017. His guide dog “Tango” sits close by.
“Most voting systems are inaccessible for people with disabilities,” says the National Organization on Disability’s (NOD) voting access project. “People with disabilities cannot cast a secret ballot with most of these systems. According to NOD,
• 34% of the voting systems in America are punch card systems
• 18.6% are lever systems
• 27.3 use optical scanners
• 9.1% use DRE (computer) systems
• 1.6% use a paper ballot, and
• 9.1% are a mixture.”
“Punch card ballots are particularly difficult for people who have vision impairments, arm or hand mobility impairments. In most elections approximately 2% of all ballots are discarded due to voter error.”
“The Trace Center, a Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center funded by the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research, has worked with manufacturers of voting machines to develop accessible voting systems.”
VIEW more election results and photos below (official results).
Stony Hill Polling Location:
Photo above: Stony Hill FD polling location, and in background you can see election officials trying to dislodge ballot that got stuck inside tabulation machine,before Tim Beeble arrived to help rectify the situation.
CJH Municipal Center Polling Location:
Photo: Cynthia McCorkindale and First Selectman Matthew Knickerbocker (taken earlier in the night before voting results were in).
Celebration at Democrat HQ:
Independents/Republicans Partying on at Portofino:
RESULTS BY TOWN / BETHEL (Official Results)
Precincts Reported: 5 of 5 (100.00%) Ballot Paper
Click on images below to view larger.