Scott Krichbaum was finally declared the winner Monday for the first-ward seat on Norwalk City Council.
It was a tight race that bounced between Republican Krichbaum and Democrat Lynn Chapin. She was eight votes ahead on election night, but Krichbaum edged her out by three votes last week when provisional ballots and absentee ballots cast the day before the election were counted.
The total was so close that an automatic recount was held Monday. The final tally was 322 for Krichbaum and 318 for Chapin.
A snafu on the residency of 18 voters that the board of elections mistakenly moved from the fourth ward to the first ward in 2003 created more controversy regarding the election than the close vote totals.
Council re-drew ward boundaries to make the ward populations as even as possible after receiving 2000 census figures. Employees at the board of elections entered 18 voters on North Foster incorrectly into the board's computer system. Those voters, including Chapin, received notice from the board they were being moved to the first ward from the fourth ward. They have been voting in the first ward since then.
When first-ward resident Jim Orth asked about Chapin's residency on election day, the controversy started.
After rechecking the ward boundaries, the board of elections conceded someone in that office had made a mistake. Director Tom Gerrity contacted Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner and said his office was told to just count all the votes and certify the results. That meant that Chapin's name stayed in the race and the votes of the people erroneously moved to the first ward were counted.
If Chapin had won the final total, the Democratic Party would probably have been asked to fill the seat since she didn't meet city requirements that only someone living in the first ward could serve on the seat.
Court controversy loomed as Orth said he would get the 25 voters needed to challenge the election if Chapin won by less than the number of voters that don't actually belong in the first ward.
Both Krichbaum and Chapin are glad the matter was settled by the voters rather than in court.
"I'm glad it didn't go to court and we didn't have all that mess to go through," Krichbaum said.
He said it was very frustrating to have to deal with the controversy caused by the incorrect entries of board of elections personnel. "I hope they get everything corrected so we don't have the same problem for anybody else in the future," he said.
Krichbaum had only praise for his opponent. "I'd like to congratulate Lynn on a good, hard-fought, clean campaign," he said. "None of this was her fault at all."
"I've lost fair and square and I wish Scott luck," Chapin said. "A court case would have been ugly and wasteful."
Chapin's main regret, she said, is for the people who donated money to her campaign. She estimated she spent about $1,000.
She also believes the board of elections should issue a public apology to both of the candidates and all voters in the ward. "We all make mistakes. We're all human," she said, "but I try own up to my mistakes and apologize."
Krichbaum is looking forward to taking his seat. "I'm excited to look forward to getting started at the first of year working with council," he said, adding he didn't have any specific agendas to work on and he will spend some time studying issues and concerns before council.
Krichbaum said he decided to run for the seat after outgoing councilwoman Tera Thornhill, a fellow Republican, announced she wouldn't seek another term. "Tera is a friend of mine and she put the idea in my head to run," he said. "I've always had an interest in government and history and it's a good chance to serve the community."