Perryville elections to continue to allow write-in candidates
— Although the deadline for candidates to officially enter the town election is Monday afternoon, the mayor and commissioners voted this week to continue to allow write-in candidates.
Several years ago, ethics rules were changed at the state level requiring candidates to file financial disclosure forms to qualify for ballot placement. Initially, Perryville officials had planned to eliminate the write-in option because of the disclosure element, which other towns had already done because of time constraints.
But last August, the commissioners agreed to table their vote to prohibit writein candidacy and get past the 2015 election cycle. Fred Sussman, the town attorney, said then that the goal was to come up with something that was fair to the voters, but also adhering to state and federal elections and ethics laws.
Now, working with Sussman, Perryville officials arrived at a compromise, which allows for write-in candidacy.
Ricky Baker won a write-in campaign for town commissioner in 2005. Although an incumbent at the time, Baker was not on the ballot but launched an eleventh-hour reelection bid.
Ordinance 2016-04 gives the elections board a specific timeline in the event that a write-in candidate garners the majority of votes for mayor or town commissioner.
Denise Breder, town administrator, said within two calendar days of the results, if a write-in is the winner, he or she must submit the financial disclosure form. Notice would likely be hand-delivered, Breder said.
“If the person does not file the statement within the two day period, the Ethics Commission is to provide notice of the failure ... within another two days, or within four days from the certification of the results,” Breder said via email.
Once the disclosure form is in-hand, the ethics board then has two days to verify that information.
A total of six days can pass before winner is official.
However, that also cuts into the time the town has to prepare for any swearing-in ceremony.
“For Perryville, the charter reads that swearing-in must occur on or before the second Monday following election,” Breder said.
John Meck urged the board in August to keep the write-in option available, calling it a right.
“Keep as much liberty and freedom open as possible even if it takes a little legwork to not conflict with state or federal law,” he said at that town meeting eight months ago.
With the revised ordinance before the board, Meck asked the board Tuesday night what happens if the candidate refuses to submit the forms, or is disqualified because of the information provided.
Since two commissioner seats are filled at each election, and the top two vote-getters are the declared winners, Meck wondered how the disqualification could affect outcome.
“If you still had two other candidates, the second-most vote gatherer would take the other office,” Meck said. “Would candidate three get the other seat?”
Breder said in the event that the top candidate were to be disqualified, the terms of the charter require the mayor to bring a name to the commissioners to fill the vacant seat.