At the Special Town Meeting on November 13, Hopkinton voters considered and passed Article 2, a citizens petition to eliminate partisan elections in town. The measure prevents the terms “Democratic Caucus Nominee” or “Republican Caucus Nominee” from appearing next to a candidate for public office’s name on any town election ballot. It also prevents political parties from caucusing to anoint a candidate.
The article was packaged in the form of a Home Rule Petition, which takes an act of the Massachusetts legislature and Governor Maura Healey’s signature to become law.
Within days of the Special Town Meeting concluding, Town Clerk Connor Degan passed the signed article to State Representative James Arena-DeRosa for action. Arena-DeRosa brought forth Bill H.4203 on November 29, and the matter was referred to the Committee on Election Laws for review, a required procedural step.
But nothing substantive has happened since. With the holiday break, and the legislature distracted with other business, Hopkinton’s Home Rule Petition has yet to become law.
Recently, the Hopkinton Democratic Town Committee (HDTC) and Hopkinton Republican Town Committee (HRTC) have made inquiries to the Town Clerk about this bill, and whether it is legally permissible for them to caucus. HopNews obtained email correspondence from the Clerk through a Freedom of Information request.
On January 19, HDTC Chair Amy Groves wrote to Degan and Vasuhdha Dutta, the Executive Assistant to the Town.
Hello Vasudha and Connor,
I have discovered that although Town Meeting voted to discontinue party-run town caucuses, the act approving this change may not pass in the legislature soon enough that it will take effect this year.
Therefore I would like to request that:
- Vasudha please reserve the Select Board room on Friday, April 12, 2024 for the “Local Democratic Caucus.”
- Checkin begins at 6 p.m. and the caucus begins at 6:30 p.m.
- Connor please reserve this caucus date for us as well, because Mass General Laws prohibit the Republican and Democratic caucuses to be held on the same day. I will forward you the press release under separate cover.
Thank you very much,
Amy Groves – she/her/hers – Chair, Hopkinton Democratic Town Committee
Weeks later, HRTC Chair Jim Mirable also contacted Degan to explore caucusing, though it appears those plans have been abandoned. Reached for comment, Mirable had this to say.
“The HRTC Executive Committee has discussed whether to caucus for this year’s town election. We have decided against it. The inaction by the state legislature on Article 2, that was passed by town meeting last year, provides a loophole for political committees to caucus before this year’s town election. Although our Executive Committee held several opinions on the pros and cons of the ability to caucus, at the end of the day, we want to be a party committee that is supportive of the decisions and views of the people of Hopkinton. Some decisions are less about if you can, and more about if you should.”
If the legislature and governor fail to act on the Home Rule Petition by April 15, all ballots for the May election will be printed with the term “Democratic Caucus Nominee” where applicable.
In spite of a clear majority of Hopkinton residents approving Article 2, Degan does not have the latitude to suppress party affiliation from printed ballots. “I can only act as the law requires me,” he said.