Orange moves 2021 election date to May 17

Staff Writer
Published: 11/20/2020 3:28:04 PM
Modified: 11/20/2020 3:27:49 PM

ORANGE – The Board of Selectmen voted Wednesday evening to push the 2021 election to May 17 and move the Jan. 7 Special Town Meeting to Orange Town Hall’s Ruth B. Smith Auditorium.

The election had been set for March 1, but Town Clerk Nancy Blackmer said this would require people to go door-to-door during a potential coronavirus surge to collect the 25 signatures needed to get onto the ballot. Nomination papers would have been available starting in mid-December and due in mid-January. Blackmer said residents interested in running for office can now pull papers in late February and return them by March 29. The COVID-19 pandemic is expected to be more under control by late winter.

During the meeting held via a Zoom video conference, Blackmer explained all elected officials with expiring terms will hold office until the election’s new date. She also said they can resign if they don’t wish to remain in office. The Board of Selectmen voted 4-1 in favor of Vice Chairwoman Jane Peirce’s motion to move the election date, with member Alexandre Schwanz casting the only vote against the measure.

“I don’t see a reasoning for it,” Schwanz told the Greenfield Recorder on Thursday morning, adding that elections have been held in town without incident during the pandemic. “I don’t know why we need another disruption.”

During the meeting, Schwanz said he is advocate for permanently moving annual elections into the springtime so candidates will have warmer weather in which to canvass for signatures and support. He also believes nicer weather and less snow could increase voter turnout. However, he said Thursday, he does not see the point of a one-time accommodation.

Blackmer said Orange Health Agent Matthew Fortier recommended moving the 2021 election date.

The board’s vote to move the Jan. 7 Special Town Meeting to the Ruth B. Smith Auditorium is a way to provide more distance between people to help prevent or slow the spread of COVID-19.

Elizabeth Teahan-Zielinski, superintendent of the Ralph C. Mahar Regional and Union 73 school districts, explained to board members that there is an issue with the Kermit Cook Auditorium’s air filtration system — heat cannot be provided while the system is circulating air.

Blackmer suggested using the Ruth B. Smith Auditorium and have a town official man the elevator that brings people upstairs.

Reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 262.


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