FRAMINGHAM – As of January 1, 2022, the City of Framingham will have new Precinct lines, and new District lines.
Those lines would be different than the lines when the City of Framingham election was held on November .
And those new lines may mean the City of Framingham may have to go to court when it comes to a special election to decide the District 3 City Council seat, that ended in a tie, after the votes were certified by the City Clerk.
On election night, November 2, the unofficial results had City Council Vice Chair Adam Steiner with 997 votes and Feeney with 995 votes.
Feeney filed for a recount last week.
On Tuesday, November 16 a recount was held and Feeney picked up 2 votes, making it a virtual tie at 997 votes each.
City Clerk Lisa Ferguson said the tie meant there was a “failure to elect.” She said that would be the official city election result “until a court decides otherwise.”
Steiner has decided he wants to challenge the certified election results from the City of Framingham with the Massachusetts Superior Court.
Feeney wants the City Council to set a special election date.
City Council Chair George P. King. Jr. has called for a special City Council meeting to discuss a special election on Tuesday, November 23, at 7 p.m.
Today, November 19, City Solicitor Chris Petrini gave his legal advice to the City’s legislative branch, and it raised concerns about the change in Precinct & District lines.
“A failure to elect in the office of district councilor is not specifically addressed in the Charter,” noted Petrini. “Without any specific process set forth in the Charter for failure to elect district councilors, the potential options for the Council to address this issue default to the applicable general laws.”
“In my opinion, authorizes the City Council to call a special election for District Councilor for District 3 for the upcoming two year term,” wrote Petrini to the 11 City Councilors andthe City Clerk.
Once a document goes to all 11 City Councilors, it is considered a public document.
“If one of the candidates does file a court action, I recommend that the Council consider authorizing me to file a petition (hopefully assented to by the two campaigns) that if a special election is ordered by the Court, then (1) such election should be held before January 1, 2022 to avoid the precinct redrawing issue discussed below; (2) that the election be solely between Adam C. Steiner and Mary Kate Feeney (without allowing other candidates to submit
nomination papers) so that the District 3 voters have the opportunity to choose between the identical two candidates who were on the ballot on November 2, 2021; and (3) that the same early and absentee voting rules in effect as of November 2, 2021 remain in effect for this special election,” wrote Petrini.
“Whether to authorize me to file such a petition is a decision for the Council as noted above and I will follow your direction,” wrote Petrini.
“If no challenge is made to the recount, the Council may vote to order a special election pursuant to the authority set forth in G.L. c. 41, s. 10. Unless a court of competent jurisdiction
authorizes a different schedule or process, the special election would be open to all eligible candidates who file the necessary nomination papers (unlike a regular municipal election or a special election to fill a vacancy in the office of the Mayor or a Councilor-At-Large, no preliminary election is required here in my opinion), and the process would take approximately two months from the date of the Council’s order. The election process under the general laws requires a 14 day window for obtaining and filing nomination papers, another 14 days to verify nomination papers filed with the City Clerk, and then the special election 35 days later, a total of 64 days from the date of the Council order,” explained Petrini.
“The Council could on its own initiative call a special election and request that the City
Solicitor file a court action seeking a court order (1) scheduling the election before January 1, 2022 to avoid the precinct redrawing issue discussed below; (2) that the election be solely between Adam C. Steiner and Mary Kate Feeney (without allowing other candidates to submit nomination papers) so that the District 3 voters have the opportunity to choose between the identical two candidates who were on the ballot on November 2, 2021; and (3) that the same early and absentee voting rules in effect as of November 2, 2021 remain in effect for this special election. While there is no guarantee that a court will order the requested relief, of course, should the Council so request in accord with Art. II Section (1)(d) and as the entity responsible for calling elections, that might be a route to more quickly providing
for a properly elected District 3 Councilor,” wrote Petrini.
“Another issue that may weigh in favor of seeking court action to accelerate the process is the
upcoming January 1, 2022 change to precinct boundaries a result of the 2020 Census redistricting process. If the special election does not occur before December 31, 2021, voters who were eligible to vote in District 3 for the November 2, 2021 election may no longer be located in District 3 as of the date of a special election occurring in 2022,” wrote Petrini.
” The Council could direct that the November 2’ precinct lines apply to the special election even if it occurs in 2022 and risk a court challenge by the voters (or one of the campaigns) that may not materialize,” wrote Petrini.
“Other potential options would be to draft and obtain special legislation to apply the
existing precinct lines for the special election (which would be difficult at this time in the legislative cycle in my view), or simply going forward with the special election in 2022 with the new precinct lines applied,” wrote Petrini.
“If the Council decides not to schedule a special election, the failure to elect stands and
the incumbent would continue to hold office under G.L. c. 41, s. 107 and Article II, s. 1(b) of the
Charter until a successor is qualified. Again, this result could be altered by one of the parties seeking court relief. Until that time, however, in my opinion, the incumbent’s “holdover” status could continue until the next regular municipal election,” wrote Petrini in his legal opinion.