Town Council Changes Date of the Watertown Preliminary Election

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Watertown’s Preliminary Election has been moved to Thursday, Sept. 17 so that it does not conflict with the Jewish high holiday of Rosh Hashanah.

Originally, the preliminary election was to be held on Sept. 15, which is also the final day of the Jewish New Year celebration. Town Manager Michael Driscoll said that the town was contacted by the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s office warning town officials of the conflict.

“On July 29, they sent a letter regarding the religious holiday notifying us that it may impede Jewish voters from fully participating in the election,” Driscoll said.

Since Watertown does not have a Jewish temple, Driscoll contacted congregations in Waltham and Belmont.

“They strongly suggested changing the date so it would not conflict with Rosh Hashanah,” Driscoll said.

Tuesday’s meeting was the first time that the Town Council had taken up the issue. It was taken up under New Business, and was not part of the agenda. Normally, under the rules of the Open Meeting Law such a change would have to be on the agenda for the Council to take a vote, said Town Council President Mark Sideris.

Because of the circumstances, Sideris said he is making an exception to allow the Council to vote.

“I think it is appropriate to vote so the Town Clerk and the Election Commission can do their work,” Sideris said.

The Preliminary Election will only be held in District B, for candidates running for district councilor. The Council voted unanimously to change the date, with District B Councilor Cecilia Lenk recusing herself from the discussion and vote.

The Town Council will confirm the vote on Tuesday, Aug. 18 at a special meeting about the Pleasant Street Corridor District zoning.

Sideris said he also wanted to take the vote so that word could go out to voters in District B. Post cards will be sent to District B voters informing them about the new election date. Information will also go up on the Town of Watertown website and on the town’s “Notify Me” email feature.

Some wondered why this issue could be taken up at the meeting, while the Bring Your Own Bottle issue could not be voted on at a July Town Council Meeting.

“Last meeting there were discussions of emergency (votes), but this is a different process, a different situation that we are in,” Sideris said.

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