Five days before Norwell’s town election, two voters formally questioned whether Chairman of Selectmen John Mariano resides in the town, or, as the Voter Registration Challenge alleges, “with his companion” in Quincy. Mariano’s name will appear on the May 19th ballot with opponent David DeCoste. Norwell voting registrars met in emergency session Monday.
Massachusetts law does not define residency. It does provide a process for challenges to residency. In the rarely used process, voting registrars must first determine whether probable cause exists and whether the challenge meets six standards.
Those standards ask if the challenge is signed and sworn, submitted by a registered voter, filed with voting registrars, filed at least four days before the election, submitted by a voter who has reason to believe the voter in question is irregularly registered and the complaint states the reasons for that belief.
Registrars agreed the challenge met five standards. They disagreed whether the challenge provided sufficient evidence under standard five. Town Clerk and Registrar Patricia Anderson doubted it did. Registrar Bruce Burgess argued the standard did not ask for sufficient evidence, but only that the challengers had reason to believe an irregularity exists.
“They’ve given us eight items of evidence,” Burgess said. “So, they have a reason to believe.”
Anderson had planned that the Monday meeting would satisfy the probable cause step in the process. But, Burgess protested the legality of the meeting. Anderson received the challenge Monday morning and, after checking with Town Counsel and the Secretary of State’s office, called an emergency meeting. Burgess contended no emergency existed because a candidate isn’t declared in office until after Registrars certify the election a week after it occurs.
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