Town Council To Consider Automatic Charter Reviews

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By: Laura M. Reckford
Published: 10/21/11

Barnstable Town Clerk Linda P. Hutchenrider said she does not think it is fair that those who want to revise the charter have to collect 5,000 to 6,000 signatures in order to get the matter onto the ballot for voters to decide.

She suggested to the Barnstable Town Council last night that Barnstable fall in line with other towns like Falmouth, Mashpee, and Braintree that have automatic charter revisions—every five, seven or 10 years—built into their charters.

“I hope you do it in our community,” Ms. Hutchenrider said.

Ms. Hutchenrider also brought up the issue of preliminary elections, which are required in Barnstable’s charter when more than two people run for a seat on the town council or the school committee.

While Ms. Hutchenrider has advocated eliminating the preliminary for some time, the issue came to the fore this fall when a tie vote at the preliminary meant all three candidates advanced to the fall election.

“We don’t need the preliminary,” Ms. Hutchenrider said.

If the council opts out of the preliminary, Ms. Hutchenrider suggested that the number of signatures candidates need for town council be raised to 50 or 75, rather than the 25 required in the charter.

If the preliminary stays, Ms. Hutchenrider said, it needs to be moved to 12 weeks prior to the election, rather than seven in order to give time for absentee voting from those overseas, particularly people serving in the military.

The tight time frame now in place means military personnel must vote by e-mail and, therefore, they give up the right to a secret ballot.

“It’s not fair,” Ms. Hutchenrider said.

Town Council President Frederick Chirigotis said the council’s rules subcommittee can look at the issues and report back to the full council.

The council voted in support of a bill at the state house to increase the time between the state primary and the state election to allow time for military personnel to vote with a secret ballot.

If approved, the bill would move the state primary and the presidential primary to the first Tuesday in June 2012.

Town Councilor Ann B. Canedy made an amendment for an alternative date if the June date is not approved, the second Tuesday in August.

The council approved her amendment.The Massachusetts state primary is now scheduled for September 18, 2012, the last state primary in the country.

Town Council James F. Munafo Jr. expressed concern that moving the primary would give an advantage to one party of the other.

He was the only vote against the resolve. Town Councilor Thomas Rugo was absent.

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