Respect voting rights

A new plan advanced in Nashua to allow elected officials to decide who fills vacant seats in city government is slightly concerning.

Officials said because of relatively low voter turnout, they want to stop having immediate elections for vacant positions on city boards.

During a Monday discussion, Alderman Ernest Jette said the system would change because special elections have received poor turnout at a great expense. He said this impacts the city not only in terms of money, but in the time of the volunteer poll workers.

This means the recent city special election that saw Ben Clemons win the Board of Aldermen seat left vacant by the death of former Alderman Brian McCarthy would not have taken place. Instead, the remaining board members would have simply voted among themselves to decide who would take McCarthy’s place.

“We appoint somebody and they fill the remainder of the term,” Alderman Richard Dowd said of the planned process during the Monday Personnel/Administrative Affairs Committee meeting.

To accomplish this change, officials are considering a resolution proposing an amendment to the City Charter. If ultimately successful, the action would allow members of the Board of Aldermen, Board of Education, Board of Public Works and Board of Fire Commissioners to fill vacancies by a majority vote of the remaining members.

While we agree with city officials regarding the cost of special elections, we also have concerns about the consolidation of power within the walls of City Hall. In general, we do not support efforts by the government to give itself more power over the people.

If the resolution to change the City Charter in this manner ultimately passes, the current plan is Nashua residents to vote on the matter during the Nov. 5 municipal election. At that time, voters will decide whether they want to continue voting to fill vacancies when they occur, or if they will delegate the authority to the officeholders.

We hope voters seriously consider the consequences of giving even more power to those at City Hall.