SALISBURY — Yesterday, selectmen followed the example of three other towns in the region by changing the date of the spring election to April 30, which coincides with the special state primary for the U.S. senatorial race to replace former U.S. Sen. John Kerry.
West Newbury, Georgetown and Newbury were the first in the region to combine the two elections into one, with Salisbury following suit at a special selectmen’s meeting held yesterday.
The joint election was made possible by enabling legislation passed by the Massachusetts Legislature, according to Salisbury Town Clerk Wilma McDonald. As the law reads, towns in the state are allowed to combine their annual spring elections with the special state senatorial primary if they are within 35 days of each other. Since the spring election had been previously set for May 14, McDonald said, Salisbury qualified.
McDonald urged selectmen to approved the measure, expected to save taxpayers $2,500 to $3,000.
Kerry’s resignation from his seat to take over as secretary of state forced the state to hold two additional elections this year: the primary on April 30 and the final election on June 25. Coming at the end of Salisbury’s fiscal years, the two additional elections will put a strain on the town’s budget, McDonald said.
The enabling legislation was a good idea and will do more than just save money, she added, for it could also bring out more voters, and that’s always a good thing.
McDonald has history to go by. In 2001, Salisbury combined a special town election with a special state primary. The outcome showed a nearly 50 percent voter turnout, she said.
That special state senatorial primary took place after former state Sen. James Jajuga resigned his seat to become the state commissioner of public safety.
Salisbury also had a special election planned on four override items, she said, and the town combined the two elections with pretty impressive results. McDonald said 48 percent of Salisbury voters headed to the polls, although not all of them cast both the state and local ballots.
According to Newbury’s Assistant Town Clerk Susan Noyes, Newbury’s selectmen approved the new date on Tuesday for similar reasons. The idea was to save money and not tax the attention of voters by forcing them to make two elections in two weeks.
But not all towns in the region are combining the elections. According to the town clerks’ offices in Rowley, Groveland and Merrimac, selectmen in those three communities voted to hold two elections separately.
Rowley’s position poses a small hitch in the election of School Committee members for the Triton Regional School District, McDonald said, since Salisbury and Newbury will hold the election on April 30, but Rowley is holding to its original May 14 date.
McDonald said there is precedent in the state for a situation like this that happened about 20 years ago. McDonald and selectmen agreed that votes cast on April 30 for those running for School Committee in Salisbury and Newbury can simply be sequestered until Rowley votes. Then the votes will be combined to decide the winners.
The situation becomes moot, McDonald said, if there are no constested races, which is actually the case currently; those running for seats are all running unopposed.
Since the annual town election has been moved up two weeks, McDonald said, the related deadlines will also move up about two weeks.
Those running for town offices now have until 5 p.m. on Friday, March 8, to take out candidacy papers, which must be returned to the Board of Voter Registrars with the appropriate number of signatures (32) by 5 p.m. on Tuesday, March 12. Withdrawal date for those who change their minds is March 28 to get their names off the ballot.
Those not registered to vote must now do so by Wednesday, April 10, to vote on April 30.
The warrant will now close on April 18 and must be posed by Friday, May 10, for Salisbury’s Annual Town Meeting, set for Monday, May 20.