SHIRLEY -- Selectmen Monday night voted to move the annual town election from May 14 to April 30 to coincide with the special state primary election.
The April 30 state primary is being held to choose party candidates for the seat vacated by U.S. Sen. John Kerry, who left his previous post to become President Obama's new secretary of state.
When Kerry was confirmed by Congress, Gov. Deval Patrick appointed an interim U.S. senator to fill his vacated seat until the special state election this spring.
Meantime, in Shirley, Town Clerk Amy McDougall made a case for changing the town election to April 30, upping the previously scheduled date by two weeks.
McDougall explained that Massachusetts municipalities were given the option by a recently passed state law to change their annual elections to April 30 if the previously scheduled date fell within 30 days of the special state primary. "Ours was within two weeks," she said.
She gave selectmen a list of pros and cons, heavy on the pro side. First, it's better for voters, as acting Chairman David Swain pointed out. McDougall agreed with that assessment, adding that the dual state and town election could boost primary voter turnout, and vice versa.
From her standpoint, the dual date allows adequate time to work on the general election six weeks later and streamlines the process in her office, McDougall said.
There are some cost savings, too, eliminating the need to pay a police officer and election warden to preside at the polling place twice.
On the downside, ballot questions would need to be in two weeks earlier, but with the budget process just getting started, that shouldn't be a problem, McDougall posited.
The new date will also impact potential candidates taking out nomination papers to run for elected office. Nomination papers will have to be turned in two weeks earlier as well.
McDougall said if selectmen said yes, she'd contact those who had already taken out papers by phone and follow up with certified letters. Given a green light, she would also publicize the election date change in local newspapers and on the town website, she said.
Two recent resignations -- Selectman Chairman Andy Deveau and Assessor Jim Keefe -- that will affect the election ballot must be resubmitted with new effective dates, the selectmen said, noting that both men have already agreed to do so.
With contingencies duly noted, Selectman Kendra Dumont made a motion to change the annual town election to April 30 this year, same date as the special state primary, citing the pertinent state law, Chapter 2, Section 2 of the Acts of 2013.
The new date to file nomination papers is now March 19.