The scene mid-afternoon Tuesday at the District 9 polling station at the Westport Library. / Photos by Thane Grauel
Matthew Mandell, left, an RTM candidate seeking re-election in District 1, and Michael Calise, a Republican running for the P&Z, outside the Saugatuck Elementary School polls on Tuesday afternoon.
Campaigners buttonholing voters outside the Westport Library, the site of the District 9 polling station in Tuesday’s municipal election.

WESTPORT — Voter turnout in Westport’s municipal election Tuesday — as of mid-afternoon — appears on track to eclipse records for an off-year election.

While official figures were unavailable by late afternoon, sources indicate turnout has been heavy, particularly for an election year when there are no presidential, statewide, congressional or first selectman contests on the ballot.

While it was not immediately clear what may be driving the surge in turnout, the heated race for seats on the Board of Education is likely a primary factor.

“Our projected voter turnout is 50 percent,” said Democratic Town Committee Chairwoman Michelle Mechanic.

“It’s a record,” she said of an off-year election.”

People from both major parties agreed the school board election was driving the turnout.

“The Board of Ed race is top-of-mind for everybody,” Mechanic said. “And I think people are really paying attention to what’s going on on the ground, whether it’s things like the gardens or Parker Harding Plaza. I think people care about who their RTM reps are.”

John Bolton, a Republican seeking re-election to the Planning and Zoning Commission, came to the library to vote, and then campaign with a sign.

He already had stopped at Saugatuck School, where his 21-year-old son was voting. Not for the first time, but the first time with his dad on the ballot.

Did Bolton get his boy’s vote?

“I hope so,” Bolton said. “I’m sure he did the right thing.”

The most direct comparison to this year’s municipal balloting is the 2019 local election, which also had no national contests or race for first selectman, and attracted only a 39.5 percent voter turnout.

Last year’s election, with ballot-topping contests for governor, U.S. Senate and House, and local seats in the General Assembly, had total voter turnout of 64 percent.

And in 2020, the last presidential election — which traditionally spark the highest voter participation — 86.5 percent of Westport’s eligible voters cast ballots.

Voters line up to cast ballots at Saugatuck Elementary School. / Contributed photo by Dick Lowenstein
Dorian Kail campaigns for the re-election of her sister, Nancy, to a District 9 seat on the RTM.
John Bolton, a Republican member of the Planning and Zoning Commission, looking for last-minute voter support for the GOP P&Z team Tuesday.