WILLIAMSTOWN -- Town Clerk Mary Courtney Kennedy wants to ensure all local voters are aware the annual town election is two weeks earlier this year.
Williamstown is one of five Berkshire communities to move up their regularly scheduled May elections to April 30 to coincide with the special U.S. Senate primary.
"[Wednesday] I was out hanging posters around town; in coffee shops, at the transfer station -- everywhere," Kennedy said. "I don’t want one person coming to me afterward saying they didn’t know."
Kennedy, along with town clerks in Hancock, Dalton, Lenox and Lee, have been constantly reminding their voters the towns’ boards of selectmen last month approved the combined elections. The city of North Adams will also hold a special election April 30 to vote on funding for a school building project at the former Silvio O. Conte Middle School.
Due to the April 30 special primary for the U.S. Senate, Massachusetts cities and towns had the option to move their annual town elections. Local officials say the simultaneous elections could save money and boost voter turnout for both the local and Senate primary contests.
A slate of Democrats and Republicans are vying to become their party’s nominees for the seat vacated by John Kerry, who left to become U.S. secretary of state. The primary winner will square off in the June 25 special general election.
The towns’ election officials say the voter information blitz will continue right until April 30.
In addition to posters, Williamstown is putting election reminders in the soon-to-be-mailed property tax bills.
Lenox Town Clerk Jen Picard says she’s blitzing voters with election notices, while Dalton Town Clerk Barbara Suriner plans to erect a big sign on the front lawn of Town Hall.
"There are probably people still unaware the election has been moved," she said.
Earlier town elections also mean a shorter campaign season for the towns’ elected offices. Tuesday was the deadline in Dalton and Lenox for local candidates to file nomination papers to get on the April 30 ballot. So far, Dalton’s only contested race is a three-way political battle for two seats on the Board of Selectmen. Incumbents William Chabot and Chairman John Boyle are being challenged by former police chief John W. Bartels Jr.
Lenox has no contested races, but that could change after next week’s Democratic Town Caucus. On Tuesday, March 19, registered Lenox Democrats will vote to endorse candidates for the town ballot.
Tuesday is also the deadline for town candidates in Lee to file nomination papers. March 21 is the last day to file in Williamstown, where the majority of the candidates have already turned in their papers, according Kennedy.
"I have two seats where no one has filed papers yet," she said. "But that’s typical for a town election, some people wait until the last minute."
While the towns expect some savings by combining the two elections -- $2,000 in Williamstown for example -- they hope dual balloting will reduce voter apathy.
"There was only a week’s difference between our election [originally May 6] and the primary," Picard said, "but by having the two together, we are hoping for a better turnout."
The annual town elections in Dalton, Hancock, Lee, Lenox and Williamstown, which typically occur in May, have been moved to coincide with the special U.S. Senate primary on April 30. North Adams will also hold a special election April 30 to vote on funding for a school building project at the former Silvio O. Conte Middle School.
The following deadlines remain prior to the voting in those towns having annual elections.
In Williamstown Š
March 21: Deadline for Williamstown town election candidates to submit nomination papers at Williamstown Town Hall.
In Lee ...
March 19: Deadline for Lee town election candidates to submit nomination papers at Lee Town Hall.
In all five towns Š
April 10: Last day to register to vote, if not already registered, and/or change party affiliation.
April 30: Primary and town election. Polls open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.