Sunday February 24, 2013

The annual town elections in Lee and Lenox have been moved up to April 30 to coincide with the special U.S. Senate primary.

Each town’s Board of Selectmen this week unanimously agreed to combine the local elections with the primary. Lenox’s annual town election had been set for May 6 and Lee’s for May 13. Dalton made the move to April 30 earlier this month.

"It may make things more convenient for voters," said Peggy Biron of the Lee Democratic Town Committee.

Due to the April 30 special primary for the U.S. Senate, Massachusetts cities and towns have 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 will square off in June 25’s special general election.

While Lee and Lenox town officials expects some savings -- $600 in Lenox, for example -- in not having to put on two back-to-back elections, they hope dual balloting will reduce voter apathy.

"Unless there is a big race, town election turnout is not good and primaries traditionally have low turnout," said Lee Town Clerk Suzanne Scarpa. "Maybe one will help the other."

"If it can save money, why not?" added Steven Cozzaglio of the Republican Town Committee. "People also get tired of too many elections."

An earlier-than-usual annual town election season also moves up deadlines for local candidates to get on the town ballots. The dates are March 12 in Lenox and March 19 in Lee. April 10 is also the last day for eligible residents in both towns to ensure they are registered to vote on April 30.

Altering the local election schedule will require an information blitz to warn the public, according to Patricia Carlino, chairwoman of the Lee Select Board.

"We need to get the message out so people know this is coming," said Carlino.

The 15-year selectwoman, along with Lenox Selectmen Chairman Kenneth Fowler, say they will seek re-election.

Fowler disputes the argument that the dual elections will confuse the voters.

"I don’t think that’s giving the voters a fair shake," he said. "I think this makes sense."

At the polls that day, voters in Lee and Lenox will get two ballots: One for the local election and another for the Senate primary.

Local town elections are nonpartisan, but the U.S. Senate primary is a party-driven election. For the U.S. Senate primary, Republicans and Democrats have to vote by party ballot. Unenrolled voters can choose.

"I can’t see it being confusing for voters as both ballots will be pretty simple," Scarpa said.

Lee and Lenox will each use one machine to electronically scan the votes cast because it can differentiate between the two ballots.

Election calendars

The Lee and Lenox annual town elections, which typically occur in May, have been moved to April 30 to coincide with the special U.S. Senate primary. The move has necessitated the following changes in their local town election schedules.

In Lee Š

n March 19: Deadline for Lee town election candidates to submit nomination papers at Lee Town Hall.

n March 22: Final day to hold party caucus to endorse local candidates.

n April 10: Last day to register to vote, if not already registered, and/or change party affiliation.

n April 30: Primary and town election. Polls open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

In Lenox Š

n March 12: Deadline for Lenox town election candidates to submit nomination papers at Lenox Town Hall.

n March 22: Final day to hold party caucus to endorse local candidates.

n April 10: Last day to register to vote, if not already registered, and/or change party affiliation.

n April 30: Primary and town election. Polls open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.