A defense of November municipal elections

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Dear Editor:

Both in the June 5 and June 13 editions of the Canton Citizen, columnist Joe DeFelice criticized annual town meeting’s vote to move town elections from April to November. In the latest attack he stated, “With only 43 voters voting for a major change, it should be ‘null and void.’” Since only 1 or 2 percent of registered voters have voted in the last few years to reelect our various public officials, does Mr. DeFelice also think these electoral results should be “null and void?”

The overwhelming majority of the 15,000 registered voters in Canton, if asked, would favor moving elections to November. In an informal survey I did of several dozen registered voters, only a single person said they wouldn’t support moving elections to November and only because she felt term limits was the bigger issue. The reason the vote was so close at town meeting was that the deck was stacked hugely against the article. The Finance Committee voted unanimously to postpone the article indefinitely; four of the five selectmen stood in a line at the microphone waiting to rail against it; our town clerk spoke at length against it, describing the change in grim tones.

The article was selected randomly as the very last article and so the vote didn’t take place until almost midnight, leaving only the most dedicated political insiders left to vote. Town meeting also competed with the Boston Bruins hockey playoffs. This vote was a tribute to the 43 people who hung in there to vote for the article despite the near unanimous opposition from the Canton political elite. It was a very good day for local democracy.

There was ugly language used against moving elections to November, including the suggestion that voters be required to pass a test before voting. “Are voters educated enough to vote?” was a common theme. The argument is familiar. One only needs to go back to the debate leading up to the 19th amendment giving women in the U.S. the right to vote in 1920. Opponents stated that women should be required to take a test; that they were unfamiliar with the ways of government; that the vote total would increase but it wouldn’t be a more intelligent vote, etc. Most people now agree that it’s a good thing that women have the right to vote.

We are behind the curve in moving elections to November. It’s now law in Connecticut where all 153 towns and cities are required to hold municipal elections in November. Voter turnout averages 40 percent, still not good but 20 times higher than in Canton. Michigan state law requires November elections — again with turnouts greatly exceeding Canton. The New Jersey state legislature last year passed legislation requiring all school boards to hold elections in November, and it is now debating whether to move all municipal elections to November. Virginia state law now allows towns and cities to move elections to November and there is a stampede to move them. California is rapidly moving to November elections, as is Alaska.

Finally, would changing the date of elections from April to November encourage people to run for public office? Mr. Defelice thinks not and I think it will. Let’s move elections to November and see who’s right.

Sincerely,

Bruce Rohr

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avatar Posted by on Jun 26 2014. Filed under Featured Content, From One Citizen to Another, Opinion. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
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