Voters on Nov. 7 will elect a three-member Board of Selectman and other positions. The board will be made up of the winning first selectman and two selectmen candidates. It acts as the executive branch of town government and fills vacancies on town boards and commissions among its other powers.
But exactly who gets elected to the board needs some explaining.
This year’s race for first selectman, the town’s chief executive officer, is a competition among two candidates because there aren’t any write-in candidates or minor parity nominees. A Democrat and a Republican are competing. The top vote getter gets elected.
The race for a selectman seat is also typically between two party candidates. But which candidate wins or loses is not so cut and dried.
State law, Chapter 146 – Elections, allows the losing first selectman candidate to get a shot at becoming a selectman. The candidate takes their vote tally and runs against the two other selectman candidates. Essentially, the selectman race becomes a three-way competition. If the losing first selectman candidate gets more votes than one of the other two selectman candidates, they win a seat on the board. The exception is that all three selectmen can’t be registered from the same party.
In essence the losing first selectman candidate runs for two offices at the same time. One of which they weren’t nominated for.
Confused? You aren’t alone.
“It’s very confusing,” said Dori Wollen, the town’s Republican registrar of voters. “The bottom line is that the person who lost the first selectman spot gets a spot on the Board of Selectmen unless he/she gets fewer votes than the other two candidates running for a selectman seat.”
One way to look at the race is to think of the losing first selectman candidate as a wild card player or team in a sports competition.
A wild card player is one who didn’t initially qualify but gets a chance to compete in the competition.
Wollen said most voters have no idea that Easton’s state election law is set up to allow a losing first selectman candidate to keep competing in the selectman race.
“They just know you have to vote for one candidate for first selectman and one candidate for the Board of Selectmen,” said Wollen.
Several small towns in Connecticut have the same election laws. Redding’s Board of Selectmen is elected the same way.
Michelle Grande, Redding’s Town Clerk, said candidates running for first selectman are informed they have a shot as selectman even if they lose the race.
“People don’t realize that someone running for first selectman can sit on the Board of Selectmen if they garner more votes than just one of the other candidates,” said Grande.
Democratic Registrar of Voter David Smith explained it this way. “There will be three people running for selectman, two of them with the highest vote will be joining the first selectman,” he said.
Smith said Easton’s selectman elections have been this way for as long as he can remember.
“It’s been like this for as long as I know,” said Smith.
Photograph by Rick Falco