Proposed change of Election Day from November to January in Amherst

UMass students unhappy with proposal

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Proposed change of Election Day from November to January in Amherst

Collegian File Photo

Collegian File Photo

Collegian File Photo

By Gretchen Keller, Assistant News Editor

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Chair Doug Slaughter called the Amherst Select Board to order at around 6:30 p.m. on Monday to discuss the transition plan regarding election dates in Amherst. As the room opened to public comments and statements, University of Massachusetts students explained their issues with the proposed change of election dates in the wake of the vote on March 27 which changed Amherst from a 240-representative town meeting model to a new 13-member town council model.

In this charter, there was a proposal for the election day for choosing new council members to be the first Tuesday in November, which is when most elections take place. However, there are now other groups within Amherst that want the election date to be sometime in January.

Groups that support the election date change to January argue that students would not be able to collect signatures and earn their nominations, called “pulling papers,” if they would like to run for their district. Pulling papers and collecting at least 25 signatures from district residents must take place between June and August.

However, UMass students argue the change from a November to January election would delay the transition process from the town meeting model to town council and would create challenges for students by decreasing the amount of student voter turnout and student voices due to students returning home for winter break during this time. Students also believe that pushing back the election date would only delay the transition process to town council.

Jack Eccles, a junior operations and information management major, believes the people advocating for changing the election date are the same people that did not support the charter in the March election and would like to curtail the new form of government for as long as possible.

“I personally believe that if any student wanted to run for town council, but could not find the time to collect 25 signatures over two months in the summer, they are not worthy of being a town council member,” explained Eccles in a statement to the Select Board. “November elections will ensure we follow the will of voters, will boost turnout and will create the student representation that has been lacking in our town community.”

When asked about the voting population with the inclusion of students, John Page, a junior operations and information management and political science major, said, “So, it depends on who’s registered to vote, but in terms of people living here, it’s about 40 percent students and 60 percent non-students.”

Lucas Harrington, a junior political science major, explained why he thinks certain groups want the election date to change.

“There are people in Amherst that hate students, and they do not want us to vote, so they’re going to do things to help that happen because they want to have a more traditional person council,” he said.

The current plan is to hold the elections in November.

“Political and advocacy groups on campus have already started working to get out the vote for young people in November for other state and national issues, and local issues too,” said Page. Referring to the first town council election slated for November, he added “This is just going to be an extension of that. For this specific time, it’s gonna be easier to bolster turnout and easier to get kids out to vote because it’s November.”

Eccles described the relationship he has observed between the Amherst police and students through his time at UMass and laws that are passed in town meetings. “Ask any of your friends who have spent a night in the Amherst jail for violating a law that exists only in Amherst, of which there are many.

“There are many laws that only exist in Amherst that only pass in town meetings and will now be decided by town council,” Eccles said.

“It’s criminal to make noise in Amherst, but it isn’t in almost any other town,” Harrington said, explaining that in most towns a fine is distributed first.

Students are hopeful that these laws they believe target college students in the Amherst area will change through the addition of the town council.

“If you care about any criminal justice reform and about how students are treated by the police, you should vote,” Eccles said.

Gretchen Keller can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @gretchenkellerr.