Wednesday, April 25, 2007

MA-05 Primary Date Now in Doubt

Via the ever-vigilant Dick Howe: the Lowell Sun today had an article detailing how all 29 clerks from the communities in the fifth Congressional district object to the Sept. 4th primary date for the special election to replace retiring Congressman Marty Meehan (D-Lowell). They've written a letter to Governor Deval Patrick asking him to pick another date, siting some of the same reasons that I noted previously. From the Sun:

[Groton Town Clerk Honorina] Maloney recently sent a letter to Patrick on behalf of all clerks in the 5th District, asking that he reschedule the primary tentatively set for Sept. 4, the day after Labor Day. The clerks fear that holding the election on Sept. 4 would result in a low voter turnout and a heavier financial burden for communities, which would have to pay workers overtime to set up voting places on the holiday. In addition, it might create chaos at schools that double as polling places because many of them open for the academic year on Sept. 4, Maloney says.
The problem is that Governor Patrick is obligated to set the primary date between 145 and 160 days of when Congressman Meehan submits his letter of resignation. If Meehan picks May 9th, that would limit Patrick's choices to three Tuesdays -- August 21st, August 28th, and September 4th. The only way that Patrick could pick a later date would be if Meehan waited to submit his resignation or if the law was changed. Unless they'd prefer the primary in August, the clerks should direct their letter to Congressman Meehan and Secretary of the Commonwealth Bill Galvin, who worked out the May 9th date together.

Also, the clerks note that they would prefer to have the special election on the same day as the city elections. That's probably easier for them, but Galvin has already spoken out against that idea already. His objection is that the city elections are non-partisan, while the Congressional election would be partisan. I'm not sure how exactly that makes a difference. My objection would be that it would give an advantage to candidates from cities, as their turnout would likely be disproportionately higher than the towns since there are more people on the ballots there. I realize that having it on a different day would discourage turnout, but I feel like there should not be a structural bias built into the election calendar. I'm actually kind of surprised that the town clerks signed on to that, though, since most towns would have already had their elections in the spring. If they have no objections, maybe my fears are overblown, after all this race may be high-profile enough that the special election boosts the city turnout, and not vice versa.