Bedford 2021 ~ A Town Election in the Time of Pandemic

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Editor’s Note—Breaking News: At least four town offices on Bedford’s March 13 ballot are wide open on the night when the citizens caucus would have taken place if it was a virus-free year.

Planning Board member Jeffrey Cohen, Assessor Ronald Cordes, Housing Authority member Lewis Putney, and Glenn McIntyre, a member of the Shawsheen Valley Technical High School Committee, have all confirmed that they are not running for re-election.

Two others said they are unsure of their plans: Anta Raj of the Board of Heath and Library Trustee Dennis Ahern.  Another Board of Health member whose term is expiring, Sarah Thompson, could not be reached.

Only three office-holders are currently candidates for re-election: School Committee member Dan Brosgol, Select Board member Margot Fleischman, and Michael Pulizzi of the Board of Library Trustees.

If these were normal times the Town Election season would start tonight,  January 5, with the annual Town Caucus.  Bedford’s registered voters would gather in the Reed Room at Town Hall to hear nominations, statements of support, candidate statements and then vote to designate two candidates as a “Caucus Nominee” for each ballot position.

Additional candidates as well as those who were not nominated by the Caucus would still have the option of appearing on the ballot, but would need to complete nomination papers requiring the signatures of fifty registered Bedford voters.

This year there will be no Town Caucus. All candidates will be required to submit papers with the requisite number of signatures of registered voters to qualify for placement on the ballot.  Candidate papers are available from the Town Clerk’s office.  To secure papers, candidates will need to call or email the Town Clerk’s office and make an appointment to pick them up.

One of the reasons that most candidates have pursued a Caucus nomination has been the interest in avoiding the signature gathering process.  This year, with social distancing and no large gatherings, securing signatures may seem all the more difficult.

To simplify the process, the Town Clerk’s office will provide 25 copies of the nomination papers to each candidate.   The recommendation is that the papers be dropped off to potential signers and then returned to the candidate.  Note that signatures can not be secured electronically because State regulations require a “wet” signature as opposed to a copied or computerized one.

The deadline for securing candidate nomination papers is January 21.  Signed papers must be returned to the Registrar of Voters (Town Clerk) by January 23.  After signatures are verified as belonging to registered Bedford voters, a candidate may review to ensure the required number of signatures were certified.   Final papers are due to the Town Clerk by February 6.  (The differentiation between the Registrar of Voters and Town Clerk is the result of State election regulations.)

One element that remains uncertain is how many signatures will be required this year.  Legislation is on the Governor’s desk that would reduce the requirement from 50 to 10 legal voters, and  State Rep. Kenneth Gordon has said that the governor’s approval may come as soon as this week. The Bedford Citizen will report the bill’s outcome as soon as it is known.

The Town Election will be held on March 13.

 


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