WOONSOCKET – Local voters will begin to learn the lineup for this year’s city election for mayor and City Council as the period for formal declaration of candidacy opens at the Board of Canvassers office in City Hall on Monday.
Declarations for mayor and City Council will be accepted at the office from Monday until 4 p.m. through 4 p.m. on Aug. 27, according to Board of Canvassers Manager Estelle D. Corriveau.
“There is no election of the School Committee,” Corriveau said, pointing to the charter change made by local voters last November eliminating the city’s elected five-member School Committee in favor of one appointed by the mayor with ratification by the City Council.
As a result of the charter change, the five current elected members of the School Committee would serve out their terms of office with the new city administration’s inauguration in December and be replaced with appointees.
The upcoming nonpartisan city election will also facilitate the shift of city elections from off-year to even-year elections synchronized with the state election calendar, according to Corriveau.
“This will be the last off-year election,” Corriveau said. “In 2016 we will have a city election held with the state election.” she said.
All of the candidates elected in the upcoming Nov. 5 election will hold three-year terms in order to make the transition to even-year elections. The terms would return to two-year terms in subsequent elections.
Although prospective candidates often indicate they will be pursuing election to a particular seat prior to the opening of declarations, candidates must complete the declaration and following nomination process to actually appear on the city’s election ballot. Corriveau said the declaration process also gives an indication as to whether a primary will be needed to prune the candidate field to no more than two contenders for mayor and 14 prospective candidates for the 7 City Council seats.
If needed, a primary would be held on Oct. 8 under the election calendar set by the state Board of Elections, according to Corriveau.
Once candidates file declarations, they will be able to take out nomination papers beginning Sept. 3. The papers must be filed with the required number of nominating signatures by city voters on by 4 p.m. on Sept. 17, Corriveau said.
The number of required signatures has been 100 under the city’s home-rule charter, but a new state law approved the General Assembly in its recent session clouded whether the local standard could be used this year. The elections bill concerning the nomination of party and independent candidates specifies that those seeking election to any local office must have their nomination papers signed by 200 electors of that community. The law included specified exceptions for the cities of Newport to require 100 signatures and Providence to set its nomination signature requirement at 500 signatures.
Given that Woonsocket holds nonpartisan elections, City Solicitor Joseph Carroll ruled the city could retain its 100-signature rule regardless of the legislative change. The city Board of Canvassers in turn voted on Friday morning to keep the 100-signature requirement for the upcoming election, Corriveau said.
“The board voted to keep it at 100 for both the City Council and the Mayor elections,” she said.
Robert Rock, elections assistant to Secretary of State A. Ralph Mollis, said Friday that it would be up to the local Board of Canvassers to decide implementation of election law rules. “I would say you do whatever the town tells you to do,” he said as informal advice to candidates.
Rock also noted, however, that candidates many times will seek double the required signatures for nomination papers just as a precaution for any of the signatures obtained not being certified as valid electors of a community. “Some use the requirement as a threshold and get more, and some get just what they need,” he said.
After all the nomination papers have been returned, the Board of Canvassers will review the papers to certify the number of valid signatures and then determine whether a primary is required, Corriveau said.
Additional information on filing declarations can be obtained by calling City Hall at 762-6400 between 8:30 a.m. and 4 p.m., Monday through Friday.