Write-in candidates a novelty for Prospect municipal election

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By Elio Gugliotti, Editor

PROSPECT — When voters in town head to the polls Election Day, they won’t find the names of all the candidates on the ballot. That’s because there are write-in candidates running in this year’s municipal election.

Marianne Byrne, Republican registrar of voters, said there aren’t write-in candidates in the municipal election very often. She said there are typically quite a few in presidential elections.

The two write-in candidates in town this year are Taryn Finley and Stanley Pilat.

Finley, an Independent, is one of two candidates challenging longtime Mayor Robert Chatfield, a Republican. The race also includes Town Council member Kevin O’Leary, a Democrat. She submitted petitions in the summer to get on the ballot as a petitioning candidate but fell two valid signatures short.

Pilat, a Republican and the vice chairman of the Town Council, received the Republican Town Committee’s endorsement to run for re-election to the council, but a clerical error made him ineligible to appear on the ballot.

The municipal election in Naugatuck also features a write-in candidate: Jolee Dinho-Guerreiro, an Independent who’s running for the Board of Education in the borough. She registered as a write-in candidate last week.

Voters can ask moderators at the polls for a list of write-in candidates before casting their ballot. The ballots include a row for write-in candidates. To vote for a write-in candidate, Byrne explained, voters have to fill in the bubble on the ballot and write the candidate’s name on the ballot under the office they are seeking. If the bubble isn’t filled in, she said, the voting machine won’t recognize that a vote was cast for a write-in candidate.

Byrne said voters don’t have to spell a candidate’s name correct, but there has to be clear “voter intent.”

“We don’t expect perfection, but it needs to be clear who they intend to vote for,” Byrne said.

Only votes for candidates who are officially registered as write-in candidates are accepted. So, votes for a fictional characters, like Mickey Mouse, or a real person who isn’t registered don’t count.

Byrne said the voting machines place ballots with votes for a write-in candidate in a different bin. These ballots are counted by hand after the polls close. She said people are allowed to observe while officials count the ballots but can’t interfere with the process.