Randomly listed candidates for town elections drawing closer

An initiative to list candidates for town elections randomly on the ballot, which Town Meeting members approved earlier this year, cleared the State House during their session Tuesday, bringing the effort one step closer to reality.

The House adopted an amendment by Rep. Denise C. Garlick (D-Needham) to Bill S. 3027 authorizing the town of Marblehead to amend the general bylaws to add a new chapter 175, Elections, regarding the order of candidates names on ballot. The House then engrossed the bill as amended.

The amendment had been approved by the Select Board at their meeting on Dec. 7, as the bill requires any changes made by the legislature to be approved by the Board.

After approval by Town Meeting, the initiative was brought to the state legislature as a Home Rule Petition by state Sen. Brendan Crighton (D-Lynn), whose district includes Marblehead, in July.

The bill now goes to the Senate for review. Once passed by the Senate, it will go into effect.

The initiative came before Town Meeting as the 39th article on the warrant for 2022’s Annual Town Meeting, which was dubbed “Order of Candidates Names on Ballot.”

The article instructs the Town Clerk to “hold a lottery for each race where names of all qualified candidates will be entered.” The results of that lottery will determine the order in which candidates’ names appear on the ballot.

Sponsored by Barbara Grenier and “others,” the article is an effort to “ensure fair elections that provide a level playing field and encourage more citizens to run for elected office in the Town of Marblehead.”

Currently, candidates for re-election appear first in alphabetical order, and challengers are listed below them, also in alphabetical order. Candidates for re-election will still be denoted on the ballot if the bill clears the senate, but they will be entered into the lottery with all other candidates.

If the bill clears the senate ahead of next year’s Annual Town Meeting, slated for May, the randomized ordering of candidates will take effect.