Beacon Hill lawmakers to determine if city can scrap its Preliminary Election

By Seth Daniel
[email protected]

Hold those ballots.

While the city pursues the ability to cancel the September preliminary election, those on Beacon Hill indicated that it isn’t a done deal just yet.

“Once all the signatures are certified and once that happens, we’ll be looking at these requests on a case-by-case basis to see if there would be any merit to canceling the preliminary,” said State Rep. Michael Moran (D-Allston-Brighton), chair of the Election Laws Committee.

Earlier this year, the City Council voted to send the state Legislature a petition calling for the elimination of the election in order to save the city some money.

Since then, a spirited councilor-at-large race has emerged and, if all those taking papers are certified on July 28, it will be enough to require a preliminary election. Right now, one ward race also requires a preliminary.

At the Election Department, they are proceeding as if there will be a preliminary, scheduling a drawing for ballot position in the preliminary on August 13.

Mayor Tom Ambrosino said preliminary elections are a waste of money.

“There’s no Constitutional requirement for a preliminary election,” he said. “It’s a creature of statute. I don’t even know why they don’t do away with preliminary elections. They’re a waste of money.”

Meanwhile, Moran said they are being very careful with Revere’s petition in his committee, as they are with numerous similar petitions before him from other cities and towns.

“There is no black or white in this situation; it’s a case-by-case basis,” said Rep. Moran. “If there are three at-large districts and there are three people running, then we probably shouldn’t have a preliminary. You can see how we could put ourselves in a precarious position if we take away people’s ability to have a voice. Not to sound corny, but this is what we’re all about here. This is the difference between us and any non-democracy on Earth. I don’t take this lightly, but I also understand the financial predicament of the municipalities now.”

Knowing a few specifics about Revere’s race, he said it was one of those that would require a hard look.

Meanwhile, challengers in the councillor-at-large race are hoping for the preliminary. Traditionally, preliminary elections are more helpful for challengers in gauging their performance, while incumbents tend to benefit from having no preliminary.

One of those beating the drum for a preliminary is challenger Ed O’Hara, a former city councillor many years ago who has put his hat back in the ring.

He said he might just challenge the constitutionality of any ruling that cancels the election.

“The people should have a voice at the polls,” he said. “Elections are a fundamental part of government.”

Challenger Al Terminiello Jr. said he felt that there would be no preliminary, even though he has been calling for it since February.

“I don’t personally feel there will be a preliminary,” he said. “They work around it somehow. Through conversations that I’ve had, I learned the City Council determined not to have a preliminary back in February. How could anyone who stands as part of the elected body hold back on a preliminary election? That’s one of the reasons for founding the country. This City Council has put a price on voting – on what the voters should and shouldn’t have.”

Moran said after July 28, they would begin looking at each petition individually and complete their hearings as soon as possible.

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