No declared candidates for several key posts
Several key elected positions in the Town of New Shoreham are without declared candidates in the upcoming election cycle, meaning that two positions on the School Committee, as well as the Town Moderator, and the Assistant Town Moderator, may be filled by one of two ways: individuals can run as a write-in candidate, or the positions can be filled by the Town Council.
The terms of School Committee members Elizabeth Connor and Pat Doyle are expiring and they did not file papers to run for re-election. The Town Moderator position, which runs the annual Financial Town Meeting, was filled last term by Fred Leeder, while the Assistant Town Moderator position was vacant.
The School Committee terms are for four years each, and the moderator and assistant moderator positions are for two years each.
According to a fact sheet issued by the Rhode Island Board of Elections in 2016, there are numerous rules and procedures for counting and reporting write-in votes.
“A ballot shall be considered to include a write-in vote when a voter has, in the appropriate space, written in the name of a person for a particular office and filled in the oval next to the name indicated on the ballot. Voters can either write or print the name,” according to the fact sheet. If both of those actions are not taken, the write-in candidate’s name will not be counted. Any name of a declared candidate that is written in will also be discounted.
However, the fact sheet seems to have been prepared to provide guidelines to local Boards of Canvassers on how to count write-in votes only in situations where there are individuals who have declared their intentions to run as write-in candidates.
As of press time, no one has declared their intention to run as a write-in candidate for any of the positions that are currently without candidates.
According to Deputy Town Clerk Millie McGinnes, there is no formal process in the town for anyone who wishes to declare a write-in candidacy.
According to Bob Rapoza, Executive Director of the Rhode Island Board of Elections, in this instance “one vote can win the position, but I will tell you this: that is a real hypothetical. You will receive more than one write-in candidate.”
When asked if the person whose name is written in has any obligation to take that position, given that no one has of yet expressed any desire to run as a write-in candidate, Rapoza said simply because that person may have received the most write-in votes, “it does not mean that they are required to take that position.”
If the positions have not been filled, the process of filling the position is kicked back to the local level, said Rapoza.
In the case of New Shoreham, the New Shoreham Town Charter indicates that filling the positions will be up to the Town Council.
In Article IV, “Town Council,” under Section 408 titled “Powers and Duties,” the Charter states that the Town Council has “the power to fill any vacancy in an elected or appointed office, board, or commission, unless otherwise provided…”
In Article 10, under School Department, it states in section 1002 that the “school Committee members shall be qualified electors of and residents of the Town, and shall hold no other paid employment in the School Department of the Town. If a committee member shall cease to possess any of these qualifications or shall be disqualified from continuing in office under provisions of the State Constitution or state law, his or her office shall be deemed to have become vacant.”
In section 1003, under vacancies, the Charter states:
“Any vacancy in the membership of the School Committee shall be filled by the Town Council until the next general election, at which time the office shall be filled for the remainder of the unexpired term or for a new term as the case may be.”