The charter review process is hitting the homestretch, with amendments to the legal document that provides the foundation for how Chelsea is run scheduled to come before the City Council for a vote on Oct. 18.
The charter is reviewed and amended every 10 years, and during the night of adoption of any changes to the document, councillors can bring forward their own amendments for a vote in addition to those that have been recommended by the Charter Review Committee.
Expect several amendments to be on the docket on that night. At a subcommittee meeting Monday night, several councillors stated that they will be proposing changes to the charter that did not pass initial muster with the review committee.
Council President Roy Avellaneda said he will propose several changes to the voting process, including setting a minimum number of write-in votes required for someone to be elected to the City Council or School Committee, and making early in-person voting a permanent part of municipal elections.
“My amendment as proposed states that any write-in candidate must receive at least 10 votes to be elected,” said Avellaneda. “My proposal is because of the following, to be on the ballot, you need 50 signatures, per our charter. (Also), if a councillor leaves for any reason, the person in second place ascends to that position, but even that individual, per our charter, has to receive 30 percent of the vote in order to qualify to take over that position.”
However, Avellaneda, there have been the rare occasions when there has been a race with no candidates, and the seat has gone to a person who got a single vote by writing in their own name.
Setting a minimum number of write-in votes would ensure that the person campaigning for a position is a serious candidate and has had some kind of outreach to the public, he said.
Councillors Calvin T. Brown and Todd Taylor both said they would like to see a higher threshold for minimum votes for write-in candidates.
“You need 50 signatures to get on the ballot, which is pretty bare bones, I think,” said Taylor. “I think that should at least be the standard or the City Council would appoint someone.”
Avellaneda said he is open to changing the minimum number, and that the issue can be brought up when the Charter comes before the City Council for the vote on amendments on Oct. 18.
Avellaneda said his proposal for continued early in-person voting for municipal elections, as has been done during the Covid-19 pandemic, is part of an effort to increase voter participation.
“This amendment would be only for the general election, not the primary,” said Avellaneda. “The city should make available to registered voters the ability to vote early and in person.”
Doing so would allow candidates more time to get voters to the polls, provide more ride opportunities for elderly voters, and make it easier for people who work during the week or have other commitments, he said.
Councillor-At-Large Leo Robinson stated that he will be making an amendment to change the composition of the City Council from an 11 member board to nine members. The amendment narrowly missed receiving the approval of the Charter Review Commission.
Robinson said he would like to see the council be composed of five district councillors and four at-large councillors as opposed to the current system of eight district councillors and three at-large councillors.
District 3 Councillor Naomi Zabot said she would like to see some type of amendment that would provide consequences for councillors who miss three sessions or more in a row without a valid excuse.
“I’m not sure if you can do that,” said Robinson. “People elected us in the community, and if we don’t show up, then it would be up to the people not to vote for us to return.”
Taylor said he agreed that it should be up to the voters to remove an elected official, but that there should be some mechanism for censure.
“I’m not sure if that would be enumerated in the charter or not, but I think that every other legislative body has that,” said Taylor.