Charter Revision Falls Short of Required Turnout
A May 18 referendum fell short of the roughly 1600 voters that were required to pass changes to the town’s Charter, sending the commission back to the drawing board to come up with a next plan of action.
Vincent Marino, town attorney and head of the revision commission said, “We will look at the statute to see if there are any statutory timelines that we need to consider, but since this vote did not hit the 15% turnout requirement, I believe that we will need to start the entire process over. That may result in this being put out again in November, but I’m not certain yet.” The vote fell roughly 240 voters shy and didn’t reach the required 15% of registered voters in spite of a valiant effort on behalf of both political parties, working in unison to get residents out to vote.
In March, the town reached the end of a year-long process of reviewing the town’s charter and making recommendations to update the document. The most significant proposed change to the charter would mean the town will hold a municipal election every four years as opposed to every two years as the first selectman, registrars of voters, tax collector, town clerk, constables and all boards would shift from a two-year term to a four-year term.
If the charter changes were put before the general election in November, the majority wins, regardless of turnout. Since the board opted to hold a special vote along with the annual budget vote, the vote would require a 15% turnout, which would mean roughly 1,500 voters would have to turn out to vote.
During the discussion in February, Marino expressed concern about having enough voters turn out to support the changes. “It’s concerning in my view that there doesn’t seem to be much concern or conflict about the proposed changes. When people seem happy, they don’t come out,” Marino said. The entire charter was published in the local newspapers prior to the referendum. The commission was established in February 2016 and has worked collectively on the revision.
Marino was pleased that the town budget passed 1088 to 201 votes. Each of the six referendum questions also were favored by similar margins, except one question that would change the charter to define a ‘quorum’ of qualified electors or taxpayers at a town meeting from 100 to ‘those present’. The result was 835 to 450.
By Melissa Nicefaro – Orange Town News Correspondent