The Natick Select Board this week laid out a plan to fill the vacancy opened when Karen Adelman-Foster recently announced her resignation.
Town Clerk Diane Packer outlined two basic options: Schedule a special election or wait until March of 2023, when the term ends. The Board would be required to go the special election route if presented with 200 certified signatures from the public advocating for this. Packer noted that in the town’s charter is a requirement regarding elections to set out a timeline that would include a preliminary election if the number of nomination papers filed exceeds twice the number of people to be elected (so 3 or more nomination papers in this case). The preliminary election would need to be exactly 28 days before the special election.
Among the considerations for setting a date were mixing in an election for this office alongside state primary and state elections scheduled for Sept. 6 and Nov. 8. Separate ballots, check-ins, etc., are required, so this is doable, but not without logistical challenges, Packer said. It’s also unclear whether vote-by-mail will be allowed by the state by that point, though it’s considered likely.
The further out any such election would take place, you start getting near the nomination paper availability for the annual March Town Election. But the sooner you do it, you’re talking about possibly having at least a preliminary election over the summer.
“We’re not in a great spot here in terms of our options, and that’s just the way it is,” Select Board member Michael Hickey said, referring to the timing of preliminary and special elections.
Initially the Board seemed reluctant to consider a summer date for a preliminary or special election. But there’s a good chance there won’t even be a need for a preliminary election, and in the end, the Board voted in favor of holding such an election if needed on Aug. 16. The special election would be Sept. 13. Having it sooner than later would give the new Select Board member at least a little while longer in office before the term ends in March.
Select Board Chair Paul Joseph said having the preliminary election, if needed, in August, and the special election in September should still give candidates time to decide to run and then campaign. The bonus for anyone winning the seat would be they’d likely have momentum if they choose to run in March for a full term.
“The sooner we get this on the radar of people the better,” Select Board member Bruce Evans said, in agreeing with Joseph’s proposal. Hickey concurred: “Once we’re getting into the middle of October, you start to reach the ‘What’s the point’ window” of joining the board.
Three candidates ran for two slots on the Select Board in the recent March election.