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NEW: City Solicitor Says Rushford Not the Authority on Elections

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

 

When it comes to authority over elections in Worcester, the Election Commission has the final say.

City Solicitor David Moore laid out the pecking order in a memo to the City Manager and Council in response to requests for clarification made in the wake of this month's state primary elections.

"The first provision grants the election commission every power concerning elections granted by state law in local elections excepting only the power to set the days and hours of municipal elections," Moore wrote.

The City Manager is next in line with general superintendence duties over the commission, which include the appointment of members and the preparation and recommendation of the Commission's annual budgets.

According to Moore, in a city with an election commission, the City Clerk has no authority over the administration of elections.

Worcester is unique, however, in that the state passed home rule legislation in 2007, stating that the City Clerk "shall provide administrative and operational support to the board of election commissioners," which allows the clerk to perform the actions previously allotted to the "executive director" of the Election Commission.

Several city residents had previously questioned whether City Clerk David Rushford overstepped his bounds by removing individuals from polling locations for failing to abide by city and state polling location regulations.

The only authority in the election process afforded to the City Council is the ability to set the date and hours of municipal elections.

Moore's memo also clarified the laws surrounding election challengers and observers. Observers may enter the polling place and can be assigned a place within the polling location by the warden.

"Observers may not request the names and addresses directly from voters or interfere with the check in process in any way," Moore wrote.

"Observers may only communicate with the warden and not other poll workers or voters."

When it comes to enforcing such polling place rules, the duty falls to the warden who is authorized to have the police officer assigned to the polling location take disruptive individuals into custody and detain them until after the election is over.

"This report clarifies questions that have been lingering for years," said Councilor Konnie Lukes.

Councilors William Eddy and Joseph O'Brien expressed their collective wish to do more to get the 38 to 40 percent of inactive registered voters in Worcester properly registered ahead of time. 

 

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