The change to a ward-only voting process for Ward Councilors and Ward School Committee seats has been a bit of an unknown for the first few months of the municipal election process, but now candidates and Election officials are saying the first change is a more difficult process in collecting signatures.
Now limited to only collecting 100 signatures of residents in their respective wards, and interacting with a public still skittish from COVID about door-knocking, candidates in the wards are finding it takes more patience and time to get on the ballot than it did previously. Under the new Charter Changes, candidates must pull Nomination Papers and get 100 signatures of registered voters in the ward they wish to represent. Previously, they could get signatures citywide from voters and voting for wards was done citywide. With a voting rights lawsuit hanging over their heads on the matter, the Council voted last year for the ward-only change, and it was passed by the State Legislature and signed by the Lt. Governor earlier this year.
This is the first time, right now, that ward candidates for Council and School Committee have been out trying to qualify for the ballot under the new system. So far the word is that many won’t answer their doors due to continuing COVID fears, and getting signatures is harder than it once was.
City Clerk Sergio Cornelio said he has already noticed the increased difficulty, and noted that maybe the wards could be adjusted downward in the future. The state law requires only 25 signatures, but Everett has always moved that number much higher.
“It’s definitely harder and definitely more difficult to get signatures in a ward,” he said. “Knocking doors is increasingly more difficult with Ring doorbells. People can see you and they won’t answer. I’ve been out there checking it out and it’s definitely more difficult than eight years ago when I ran. The incumbents have it easier because they can call up people within their existing voter base. I’ve been hearing these candidates are finding it more difficult and I agree with that. Still, I think we did the right thing in making the change. It was the right thing to do.”
First time School Committee candidate Cady Steinberg said it has been more difficult than she expected, as she had learned from the experiences of others who were under the old citywide system. However, she said she has pushed through and utilized patience and persistence.
“I would agree it’s definitely been challenging,” she said. “I submitted (signature) sheets Monday and am waiting to hear back on how many have been certified. I think the ward-only aspect is great in that I’m interacting with the folks that I’m representing, but I think the limitation, coupled with the terrible weather we’ve been having, has made it hard to get out and knock on doors. However, I do have to say my team and I were out (Sunday) and I think we did pretty well.”
Steinberg was certified for the ballot later on Monday, July 12.
Incumbent Ward 2 Councilor Stephanie Martins has been elected under the old citywide system, and now is learning how to campaign under the new ward-only system. She said it takes patience and a new way of strategizing.
“Running citywide broadens the pool of residents that can sign our papers,” she said. “A citywide candidate can stop in front of a busy store, intersection, or event and get certified faster. Everywhere you go you find registered voters that can sign your papers. As strictly a ward candidate, our reach is more limited now. Residents feel uncomfortable answering their door because of COVID, so the best strategy has been to reach out to people directly and schedule a time to stop by. That is more personal, but takes longer than the at-large process.”
Completed Nomination Papers to get on the September or November ballot are due on July 23. The City Clerk has until Aug. 6 to fully certify Nomination Papers and set the ballot.
•SNAFU IN WARD SIGNATURE REQUIREMENT REMAINS
The controversial Charter Change from last winter reared its head once again last week when it was discovered that one stipulation that passed the State Legislature was difference from what was passed by the City Council.
The issue was related to the numbers of signatures required for ward candidates for Council and School Committee. The Council had discussed, negotiated and voted to require that 125 signatures be required for ward candidates. That was moved on to the State Legislature for passage, but outside attorneys KP Law and Clerk Cornelio made a clerical error when the moved it on, making it only 100 signatures required instead of 125.
The 100 signature requirement ended up passing the Legislature and was signed into law without anyone realizing the problem.
It was discovered last week, and Cornelio notified every one of the new standard. The 100 signature requirement will be left as it is. Cornelio said it actually helps candidates, particularly non-incumbents. Had it been mistakenly revised upward, they might have taken action, but since it lowers the threshold, he said no action will be taken.
Candidates are quickly qualifying for the ballot this week, as the field begins to look settled in most every race up for grabs.
Already, last month, all three mayoral candidates qualified for the ballot, and while it’s the biggest race, that’s been set for some time.
The Council at-large race is really taking shape now, with many now on the ballot or just about to be on. Those that are certified for at-large Council are:
•Councilor Michael Marchese
•Councilor Rich Dell Isola
•Allen Panarese (currently a School Committeeman)
•Councilor John Hanlon
Candidate Guerline Alcy continues to seek signatures, and James Mastrocola has not turned in signatures yet. Catherine Tomassi Hicks withdrew from the race.
In Ward 1, Councilor Wayne Matewsky has qualified, and in Ward 2 Stephanie Martins has qualified, while her potential challenger Jason Marcus has withdrawn. In Ward 3, Councilor Anthony DiPierro was certified on Monday, and a challenger in Ward 3 has pulled Papers, Darren Costa. In Ward 4, Councilor Jimmy Tri Le has qualified, and challenger Holly Garcia has also qualified.
In Ward 5, Councilor Rosa DiFlorio has qualified for the ballot and challenger Vivian Nguyen is still seeking signatures. The Ward 6 race has been set since last month, and will feature Candidates Al Lattanzi and Ross Pietrantonio.
The School Committee at-large race got interesting two weeks ago when current at-large member Millie Cardello withdrew and became certified in the Ward 1 race.
Those certified in the at-Large race include:
•Member Cynthia Sarnie
•Member Joe LaMonica
Challenger Jennie Montresor took out papers last week for at-large and Ward 5, and Challenger Robert Santacroce is still pursuing signatures.
In the Ward 2 race, Challengers Jason Marcus and Cady Steinberg will face off and are set on the ballot. Ward 3 has been a very interesting spot for the School Committee, with current Chair Frank Parker stepping aside last month, and Veterans Agent Jeanne Cristiano stepping in and being certified. Some more drama unfolded on June 30 when Samantha Hurley took out Papers for Ward 3.
In Ward 4, Member Dana Murray and Challenger Mike Mangan are still pursuing signatures and no one is yet certified for the ballot. In Ward 5, Member Marcony Almeida Barros has been certified, and a new potential challenger emerged last week in Montresor.
In Ward 6, Challenger Catherine Tomassi Hicks has been certified, but Member Tom Abruzzese is still seeking signatures and so is current Councilor Michael McLaughlin. Challenger Renee Solano is also still seeking signatures.