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Officials set separate dates for town election, Senate primary

Date: 3/21/2013

By Chris Maza

EAST LONGMEADOW — Town officials have opted against combining the town election and special primary election for U.S. Senate, both of which are slated to take place in April.

Town Clerk Thomas Florence explained to Reminder Publications that Gov. Deval Patrick gave municipalities in Massachusetts the option to merge the two elections in an effort to reduce expenses, but the savings would have been negligible for East Longmeadow.

"Something like this is beneficial to towns like West Springfield where there are separate voting locations and you would have to pay for police officers and poll workers at all of those locations more than once in a month," he said. "Because all voting for all precincts takes place at Birchland Park Middle School, there wasn't a huge benefit to us."

The town election is scheduled for April 9 and includes two contested races. In a reprise of the 2012 special town election, Angela Thorpe and Selectman Peter Punderson will vie for a three-year seat on for Board of Selectmen. They were the top two vote getters in the March 12 town preliminary election over Ronald Cutler and Joseph Townshend. John Maybury and Thomas O'Brien are also facing each other for Maybury's seat on the Board of Public Works.

The Senate primary will take place on April 30. Congressmen Edward Markey and Stephen Lynch will vie for the Democratic nomination. Meanwhile, state Rep. Daniel Winslow, Gabriel Gomez and Michael Sullivan will compete for the Republican vote.

The general Senate election will take place on June 25.

Florence added that hosting two separate elections would reduce the possibility of confusion among voters and mistakes by poll workers.

"If the elections were combined, there would be two separate ballots that would have to be filled out an handled. While the machines could be calibrated to accept two different ballots, after talking with the Board of Selectmen, it was agreed that we didn't think the small savings was worth the chance for human error," he said. "Primaries are much more involved, especially for unenrolled voters who will have to determine which ballot they would want to vote on for the Senate election."

Florence also said that three weeks between elections would be enough time for his staff to get organized and shift from one election to the other.

Florence also stressed that the public would be properly notified of the election as usual.

Thorpe had commented after the March 12 primary that several people she spoke with said that they were not aware of the election because signs were not up in town as they usually are. Florence explained that the signs were up, but later removed because the language was not correct and while he requested they be replaced, it did not happen.

"The signs were out for over a week until I recognized on March 8 that they said 'Municipal Primary' instead of 'Town Preliminary,' Florence said. "I contacted the Department of Public Works to make the correct change and get the signs immediately back up. I contacted them again on Monday, [March] 11 to get them out, but unfortunately they were never updated with the correct information and put back out."

Florence added that his office uses several means in addition to signs, to make the public aware of elections, including the town's website, press releases to the local media, East Longmeadow Cable Access Television and a "robo call" the night before the election to all homeowners and business owners in town.