The Newton Election Commission decided Friday afternoon not to move forward with a special election for the vacant Ward 1 alderman-at-large seat and instead, wait until the general municipal election in November to fill the spot on the Newton Board of Aldermen.
Interim Election Commission Executive Secretary Peter Koutoujian Sr. told Newton Patch that the election commissioners have docketed an item recommending the Board of Aldermen vote to forego the special election, which will require the board to petition the state legislature.
The Ward 1 at-large seat was vacated late last month after the death of Alderman Carleton Merrill, who passed away on Jan. 23 at the age of 88.
Last week, Koutoujian told Newton Patch the potential special election would not be an easy task, as Newton voters are already heading to the polls five other times this year.
"If we had a [sixth] election in there, it would be a nightmare," Koutoujian said.
Newton voters will head to the polls on March 12 for a special override election, followed by a special senate primary in April and a special senate election in June to fill John Kerry's vacant senate seat. On top of that, there will be a potential municipal primary in September and the general municipal election in November.
The city could consider getting permission to piggyback the Ward 1 at-large special election with the Senate special election, Koutoujian said, but that brings a whole new set of complications.
"It's not that simple," Koutoujian said.
If the two special elections ran on the same day, there would be two separate ballots and two check-in spots at polling locations, which could confuse voters.
According to Koutoujian, voters will elect the new Ward 1 alderman-at-large during the Nov. 5, 2013 general municipal election. However, instead of having the alderman-elect sworn in January 2014, the new Ward 1 alderman-at-large will be sworn in immediately following his/her election in November.
The city will save upwards of $30,000 by not holding the city-wide special election to fill the Ward 1 at-large seat, Koutoujian added.
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 will have to petition lawmakers on Beacon Hill for home rule legislation to allow the city to forego the special election.
The Board of Aldermen's Programs & Services Committee is scheduled to take up the item this Wednesday, Feb. 6. The meeting will be held at 7:45 p.m. in room 222 at City Hall.
What do you think about the Election Commission's recommendation? Do you agree? Disagree? Tell us in the comments section below.