In an effort to avoid holding two elections within a six-day span, Foxborough’s Board of Selectmen agreed Tuesday to combine the annual town election with the state’s special primary election on April 30.
“Because of the resignation of Senator John Kerry it caused a special election,” Town Clerk Bob Cutler Jr. said. “We have the [state’s special] primary, which is on April 30th and then on June 25th is the actual [special] election so because of that the state decided to pass legislation that allows towns who have a town election within a 30-day period of either the primary or the special election to combine your town election with one of those elections.”
Foxborough’s annual town election was scheduled for May 6 – six days after the special primary election.
Cutler told selectmen that at least 28 towns in the Commonwealth have opted to combine elections under legislation passed on Jan. 31.
“The [towns] in the area [that have decided to combine elections] are Norfolk, Plainville and Wrentham,” said Cutler. “I know in speaking with the Town Clerk in Easton [Monday], they passed a vote to combine the elections in Easton.”
Cutler told selectmen combining these elections does not affect the town’s bylaw.
“The statute is good through July 31, 2013,” Cutler said. “It doesn’t have any long-term affect on how you handle town meetings and elections.”
Cutler added the date of Foxborough’s Annual Town Meeting will not be affected by changing the date of the annual town election.
Cutler weighed the following pros and cons for combining elections:
Funding – “All towns are concerned about how it will affect funding,” Cutler said. “We will have some additional costs that are separate from what the state election would be. We have our own printing costs for things like ballots. None of that is going to change. There is also some discussion that the state will reimburse us, as they have in the past, when they issue a special election. … For any of these state elections the state pays for these ballots, pays for processing of software and things associated with the election.
“Where we would save if we were to have one election is we wouldn’t have to have police detail for a second election. We wouldn’t have to pay for setting up and breaking down polls for more than one election. That’s the big area where we would save.”
Cutler said there has been some discussion amongst town clerks, however, the state may not reimburse funding if we combine elections.
“We might not save as much as we thought we would initially but we would still save in additional costs for more than one election,” Cutler said. “It would still make sense to combine the elections.”
Use of facilities – “Another thing we would avoid is disruption of the schools,” Cutler said. “We impose on the schools every time we have an election.
“We close down the gym and they close that end of the school. They’ve been great to us and we appreciate all they’ve done for us in the past. They’ve been very supportive. If we have to do that twice in a week it would become a bit cumbersome.”
Voter attendance – “Another thing would be having residents come out twice in a week,” Cutler said. “Typical town elections and primaries are low [in attendance]. I think the last primary we had in September was maybe 17 percent turnout. By combining [elections] you may have a better turnout because you’re combining the people coming out for the town election and people coming out for the state election. Maybe it would be a bigger turnout.”
Election confusion – “[There] may be a bit of confusion,” Cutler said. “You’re going to have two separate ballots, two separate sets of voting lists.
“We’ve talked to clerks who have done it and they said it is very workable. Proper planning and it will work out fine. I’m not as concerned about that as I was.”
Skewed voter turnout – “I also had some concern initially of a skewed voter turnout but now it appears there will be a race on both sides – Republicans and Democrats – for the state Senate seat,” Cutler said.
Setting up dual election – “It will obviously be a little bit more of a set up but I think it can work,” Cutler said.
After presenting his pros and cons for combining the election, Cutler said he recommended a dual election to avoid holding two elections in six days.
Selectmen voted 3-0 in favor of combining the special primary and annual town elections for April 30. Selectmen James DeVellis and Lynda Walsh recused themselves from the discussion as both are running for selectman in the annual town election.