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PETITIONS – PETITIONS – PETITIONS – DEMOCRACY AT ITS PURIST

Most people understand the process and power of voting but all registered voters also have the power to bring about political changes by appealing to voters and the community directly. This power is exercised by methods such as a referendum or petition. The Federal Government and each State Government provide for such referenda and petitions and each kind of petition and each level of government has its own rules and procedures with regard to them. The various rules and procedures from state to state and community to community are numerous and vary significantly from each other. For the Town of Bernardston this has been a tradition and legal option since the 18th.

The role of the Town Clerk is to assist anyone interested in exercising the right to petition so that the process and procedure will not unnecessarily impede the exercise of those rights. The process and procedures are designed and intended to be as simple as possible without sacrificing other requirements and expectations of town governance.

Those interested in proposing any petitions need to be clear about their intended goals and move as early as feasible to begin the process. The Town Clerk is here to help guide you through the process.

A General Petition of Public Opinion

The simplest form of petition is a statement of some opinion or expression of concern with a list of people signing that they agree with that opinion or concern. Such petitions can be addressed to the Selectboard or a particular committee or commission and do not need to follow any strict legal rules except the practical rule of clarity of purpose.  Such petitions are very important for letting town officials know the things about which citizens are concerned and often result in a satisfactory response from town officials.

No petition of any kind by itself can require town officials to act in any particular way. Only a town meeting warrant article or ballot question has the power to compel town officials to act in a particular way and then only certain kinds of articles and ballot questions have that power.

For all petitions the most critical procedural issues are how many registered voters must sign the petition to get the desired result and the timing of presenting the petitions. Timing is critical and no matter how important an issue may be there are certain deadlines for all petitions which are absolute and if you miss those deadlines you have to wait until the next town meeting or election or plan to call by petition a special town meeting or special election.

Petition to Put an Article on an Annual or Special Town Meeting Warrant

The simplest way to put an article on any town meeting warrant or question on a ballot is to ask the Selectboard to vote to do it. If for any number of good reasons they refuse to do that, those concerned can petition to require they put the article on the warrant or ballot.

Click Here For the Annual Town Meeting Detailed Rules
Click Here For Annual Town Meeting Forms

Click Here For the Special Town Meeting Detailed Rules
Click Here For Special Town Meeting Forms

Petition to Nominate Someone for a Local Elected Position on The Annual or General Election Ballot

The simplest way to be nominated for most local elected positions is to be nominated at the Annual Town Caucus but there are some positions such as School Committee Representative which require a petition called nomination papers. There are also times when for a variety of reasons a person was not nominated at the Caucus in which case they can take out the appropriate nomination papers and be nominated by that method.

Click Here For the Detailed Rules time table keyed to each election year
Click Here For Forms time table keyed to each election year

Petition to Put a Question on The Annual Town Election Ballot

Click Here For the Detailed Rules time table keyed to each election year
Click Here For Forms time table keyed to each election year

Petition to Put a Question on The State General Election Ballot

Click Here For the Detailed Rules time table keyed to each election year
Click Here For Forms time table keyed to each election year

Petition to Call a Special Town Election or Special Town Meeting

Click Here For the Detailed Rules
Click Here For Forms