For the first time in 22 years, a challenger has emerged for the elected seat of New Canaan’s Democratic Registrar of Voters.
Bernard Simpkin, a member of the New Canaan Housing Authority and treasurer of the Democratic Town Committee, is seeking his party’s backing at Tuesday’s caucus.
Citing his experience in civic and elected positions and his rapid involvement in New Canaan since moving here relatively recently, Simpkin is seeking to unseat George Cody, who has held the position since 1994.
“While I do not have ancestors that have been in this town—I have been in this town a little less than five years—yet I have been able to become a part of it and I am known and respected by people in town,” said Simpkin, 72, a Millport Avenue resident, who sits on the New Canaan Housing Authority Board and serves as treasurer of the DTC.
“I have a lifetime of management and organizational skills as well as people skills, which I think are important. And I am very highly energy—that part is very important here, with a highly energetic Republican registrar leaving, the office really needs someone with energy and people skills to rally voters to the polls. I have always been involved in many different things.”
Those include serving on the board of the West Side YMCA in Manhattan as well as the Upper West Side Community Board, chairing the Planning & Zoning Committee of the latter for nine years. A Brooklyn native and father of four, Simpkin is a retired marketing consultant who had lived in Stamford immediately prior to New Canaan. He holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Tulane University in New Orleans.
Cody, 68, of Main Street, is a lifelong New Canaanite who served as DTC treasurer, secretary and vice chair prior to resigning from the committee in 1994 on taking office. He holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from Point Park University in Pittsburgh.
A former constable in New Canaan and the last Democrat to run for a state legislature seat representing the town (in the 1980s), Cody said that with the current Republican registrar leaving this year, “this is no time to have two new registrars taking office at the same time.”
“The two Registrars work in tandem. I have been working with a potential Republican replacement and am confident that there will be no gaps in election management or in the operation of our office.”
The office of registrar has “grown increasingly complex,” Cody said, and the job “goes way beyond just being a moderator in a polling place.”
“There is a lot of gut knowledge, you have to have a feel for working with school personnel, town and state officials and all the different parts of election management,” he said.
Cody added: “I think I have done a very good job of working with the Republicans in New Canaan and making every election as smooth as possible.”
Under state law, registrars are elected for two-year terms in even-numbered years, and they’re paid by each local municipality. Deputy registrars are appointed by the registrars themselves. According to the town website, a registrar’s duties include maintaining voter registry lists and overseeing voter registration and education, voter-making sessions and supervised absentee balloting as well as working with civic groups such as the League of Women Voters to promote greater voter participation.
Cody said he is a past president of the Registrars of Voters Association of Connecticut and as member and chair of its Legislative Committee. In those roles, Cody said he has “monitored and worked on election related legislation that has defined our current election procedures, including serving on both the governor’s and legislative commissions on the selection of our current voting technology.”
The Democratic caucus is to be held at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the Town Meeting Room. The candidate seeking Democratic endorsement who does not sway the caucus may petition for a primary.