After much debate about whether to hold a special election in Ward 1, the Newton Board of Aldermen rejected last night a proposal to skip the special election and fill the vacant seat in the November municipal election.
Instead, the board will now consider holding a Ward 1 alderman-at-large special election in conjunction with the June 25 special Senate election.
The Ward 1 at-large seat was vacated last month following the death of Alderman Carleton Merrill, who passed away on Jan. 23 at the age of 88.
Earlier this month, the Newton Election Commission voted to forego the special election to fill the Ward 1 seat, arguing that it would not be an easy task in a year that already includes five other elections.
However, the city's charter specifies that a special election must be held to fill the Board of Aldermen seat if the vacancy occurs within the first 15 months of the term [Sec. 2-5 (a)]. Because the charter states a special election should be held, the Board of Aldermen would have had to petition lawmakers on Beacon Hill for home rule legislation to allow the city to skip the special election.
The Ward 1 alderman-at-large special election, a city-wide election, will cost Newton around $30,000, according to Interim Election Commission Executive Secretary Peter Koutoujian Sr. It will also require two separate ballots and two check-in/check-out spots at polling locations if it is held on the same day as the June 25 special Senate election.
But many aldermen believed the added cost and potential inconveniences of another special election did not outweigh the law of the charter or the residents' right to vote and fill the vacancy.
Aldermen who supported delaying the election to November argued that anyone elected to the Ward 1 alderman-at-large seat would only serve four full months, two of which fall during the summer and are considered "slow" months for the board.
Current Ward 1 Alderman and Board President Scott Lennon has declared his candidacy for the Ward 1 alderman-at-large seat. Former Alderman Allan Ciccone Sr. has said he would like a shot at the seat as well.
What do you think? Did the aldermen make the right decision? Should the special election be held? Should it wait until November? Tell us in the comments section below.