Open to all: Charter Review Committee to hold forum on election issues

  • Northampton city hall File photo

Staff Writer
Published: 4/26/2019 5:04:14 PM
Modified: 4/26/2019 5:04:04 PM

NORTHAMPTON — The Charter Review Committee will hold a forum Tuesday on election issues, including ranked-choice voting and youth voting in municipal elections, and the committee’s chairman, Stanley Moulton, wants the public to know that it will be open to all.

“It’s open to anyone in the city who wants to come and register an opinion,” said Moulton.

The meeting will take place in the community room of JFK Middle School starting at 7 p.m.

“We can go for a couple of hours,” said Moulton. “We expect a good turnout.”

The Charter Review Committee’s task is to review the city’s charter, the document that lays out the structure of the city’s municipal government, and suggest any changes if necessary.

Moulton said that the committee has taken care of a lot of housekeeping issues and is now on to the “more meaty subjects.”

The committee, which has been meeting since February, has public meetings on the second floor of City Hall in the hearing room on the first and third Tuesday of each month. These meetings begin at 6:30 p.m. and include a public comment period.

Moulton said that, while a half dozen elected officials spoke at a public comment period when municipal officials were invited, typically one to two people have addressed the committee in the public comment periods.

This is the first forum organized by the committee, and it will focus specifically on election issues.

One of these issues is ranked-choice voting, which allows voters to rank candidates in terms of preference when voting. 

Moulton noted that Cambridge and the state of Maine are two places that currently use ranked-choice voting and that the committee will be hearing from advocates of the system at the forum.

“My hope is that it will encourage people to run for City Council,” said Robert Boulrice, who represents Ward 5 on the Charter Review Committee and has connections to Cambridge.

Boulrice has been liaising with Voter Choice Massachusetts, which advocates for ranked-choice voting in the commonwealth.

“They’ll be making their 15-minute presentation” at the forum, said Boulrice.

Moulton said that the committee will also discuss “no-excuse voting,” which covers a number of policies that help put ballots in the hands of voters before Election Day. One idea would be to mail ballots to all voters prior to the election, as Oregon, Colorado and Washington state currently do.

“We’ll look at the pros and cons of that,” said Moulton.

A presentation on no-excuse voting will be done by City Clerk Pamela Powers.

Charter Review Committee Vice-Chairwoman Sam Hopper moved to Northampton from California, and she noted that, in California, voters can sign up to have an absentee ballot mailed to one’s residence without giving a reason.

“The system was so easy,” she said.

The Mayor’s Youth Commission also will be making the case for lowering the voting age to 16 in municipal elections.

Moulton said that other election-related issues, such as the length of City Council and School Committee terms, can also be brought up at the forum.

“We certainly hope people will want to attend,” said Boulrice.

“I’m particularly excited for this forum,” said Hopper.

Hopper added that, while she has opinions about the three headlining issues, she is not an expert, and she is looking forward to getting better informed at the event. The forum offers the public the opportunity to learn as well, she said.

The Charter Review Committee’s members are Boulrice, Moulton, Ward 1; Hopper, Ward 4; At-Large City Councilor William Dwight, Lyn Simmons, the mayor’s chief of staff; Roberta Sullivan, Ward 2; Dylan Gaffney, Ward 3; Patricia Healey, Ward 6; and Mollie Fox, Ward 7.

The committee must issue its report, which will include any recommended changes, to the charter by Dec. 31.  

Bera Dunau can be reached at bdunau@gazettenet.com.




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