Recall petitions would need support from half of annual election voters

CHARLTON — Voters in this town may have an easier go of it if they opt to try to remove a locally elected official from office after Town Meeting authorized a petition for special legislation.

More than 63 percent of Town Meeting voters supported a citizens’ petition to amend Charlton’s recall procedures on Wednesday night. By a vote of 74-43, the Board of Selectmen have been authorized to file a petition for special legislation with legislators in Boston.

Proponents say the current process to recall an elected local official is not feasible as it would require signatures from more than 1,800 registered voters to be collected over roughly three weeks. The current regulations state that 25 registered voters must first file an affidavit that states the name of the individual to potentially be recalled as well as the reasoning for the possible removal from office. Upon certification by the board of registrars, petition blanks would be provided with the stipulation of collecting signatures from at least 20 percent of registered voters in Charlton. Those petitions must be returned within 20 business days for certification before a recall election can be called.

The proposed alteration to recall regulations would extend the amount of time for individuals to collect signatures from 20 business days to 30 business days, and would also drastically decrease the number of signatures needed. Under the proposed rules, petitioners would need to collect signatures from at least 50 percent of the total number of people who voted in the most recent annual town election.

Selectman David Singer said the current requirements would necessitate 1,800 to 1,950 signatures be collected for a recall election to be had. Based on last month’s annual town election, the 50 percent threshold would be little more than 600 signatures of local registered voters. Kristin Kustigian, who spoke in support of the change, said the eased requirements would make the possibility of recalling an elected official “more realistic.”

Rick McManus was among the Charlton residents opposed to the proposed change, stressing that regular elections already provide voters with the opportunity to remove officials by voting for other candidates, or to even run for office.

The 50 percent threshold was originally slated for 30 percent, but Singer offered an amendment to increase it in an effort to ease concerns that recall efforts could become frivolous and make it too easy to overturn the will of voters in electing officials to posts on municipal boards and panels.

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