Special election law allows towns to move dates

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The primary election to fill the U.S. Senate seat left open when John Kerry resigned to become secretary of state will be held on April 30, with the final special election on June 25, under legislation signed by Gov. Deval Patrick on Feb. 1.

Chapter 2 of the Acts of 2013 also allows cities and towns with elections or town meetings within 30 days of the primary or final election to move the local election or meeting to one of the special Senate election dates.

The decision to change a local election date would be made by vote of the town council or the board of selectmen after consultation with the town clerk. The local vote must occur at least 35 days before the date of the rescheduled election.

On Feb. 6, State Auditor Suzanne Bump sent a letter urging the governor and legislative leaders to provide up-front funding to cities and towns to cover the local costs of the upcoming special primary and general elections for U.S. Senate. She has estimated these costs at $8.2 million statewide.

Bump’s letter noted that the Division of Local Mandates, which is part of her office, determined in 2009 that the state law governing special elections imposes a state mandate subject to the provisions of the local mandates law.