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February 15, 2013

Towns moving election dates to coincide with Senate primary

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.

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