WALLINGFORD — Town voters will see three names on the ballot next month for Registrar of Voters, after petitioning candidate Barbara Kapi received the required amount of signatures.
Kapi, the current Democratic Registrar of Voters, failed to receive the party's endorsement or qualify for a primary earlier this year.
The Democratic Town Committee endorsed Bob Avery, who is seeking his first term in the registrar's office and has done election work for the party in the past.
Kapi received 213 elector signatures, more than the required 206 signatures, by the August deadline.
Incumbent Republican Chet Miller also is on the ballot.
Under Connecticut law, municipalities have two registrars. Avery and Miller are both guaranteed election, but if Kapi, a registered Democrat, receives one or more votes than Avery, she would, by state law, become Wallingford’s third registrar.
A deputy registrar also would be hired to work under her. Both registrars earn an annual salary of $28,281, according the personnel department, and both deputy registrars, who work nine hours per week, earn an hourly rate of $14.77.
Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr. said Wednesday the budget would have to increase to cover the new costs and that money would have to come from taxpayers.
As a state law, “there’s no way to say, ‘no we’re not going to fund that,’” Dickinson said.
Among the electors who signed Kapi’s petition is Miller, the Republican registrar.
“I just felt that people who have a wish to run for office, they should have the opportunity,” Miller said Wednesday.
Avery said that so far in his campaigning, he’s received “100 percent support.”
“I’m already going to win, that’s not a question,” he said Wednesday. “The only thing at stake is, if (Kapi) gets one more vote than I get, the town will be forced to hire her, and pay her a salary with no duties or responsibilities. The only thing she can do is hire an assistant, which is a terrible waste of taxpayer dollars.”
Town Clerk Barbara Thompson said Thursday that she’s concerned how her office will interact with three registrars.
“My concern, as town clerk, would be dealing with three registrars of voters during the election process could get very messy,” Thompson said. “At this time, I’m not 100 percent positive that (Kapi) has grasped her duties as registrar of voters. It might be time to allow someone new in the office, and just go forward with two registrars of voters.”
Kapi, who became registrar in May 2017 after former Democratic Registrar Betty Torre retired, said Thursday she’ll be starting her campaigning “any minute now,” once her lawn signs are ready.
Her long experience in town government “dating from the late ‘90s,” she said, makes her more qualified than Avery, who “has not worked one day in this office.”
She served as an election moderator at Cook Hill Elementary School for 15 years, has worked in Registrar’s office for five years and was Town Clerk for two years.
“I feel I’m very qualified for the job,” she said. “It’s is very, very detailed position. The laws and regulations we work with are innumerable.”
She also said she’s worried that most of the office work would fall on Miller, since Avery is inexperienced.
She said paying a third registrar and deputy won’t be a huge financial hit to the town. Registrars are paid one dollar per registered voter, and the position offers no benefits, she said.
“(Mayor) Dickinson is very, very frugal man,” she said. “For $28,000, out of a budget as large as ours, it’s really an insubstantial amount needed to protect the integrity of the voter’s office.”
Kapi still needs to complete registrar training and certification, according to the Secretary of the State’s records. She’s not out of compliance, however. She began the courses in July and has until the end of her term as registrar to complete them.
There are eight courses registrars must complete for certification, and the eighth and final class can’t be taken until the first seven are completed.
According to the Connecticut Information Technology Institute, Kapi said has competed five courses.
Kapi said the other two courses were canceled and won’t be offered until after the election.
There is a precedent for municipalities in Connecticut having three registrars.
Westbrook and New Canaan currently have three registrars, and Hartford became the first Connecticut municipality ever to have three registrars in 2009, when Urania Petit, a member of the Working Families Party, petitioned onto the ballot and won election.