Morse Resignation As City’s Mayor Prompts Holyoke To Seek Election Relief

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By Katie Lannan
State House News Service

Another city counting down until a mayoral vacancy is asking the Massachusetts Legislature to cancel the special election it would otherwise be required to hold.

Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse is resigning Friday to become Provincetown town manager. Under the city’s charter, according to a bill filed last week by state Representative Patricia Duffy (D-Holyoke), a special election is required if the mayor’s office becomes vacant more than six months before the municipal year ends — in this case, on or before June 30, 2021. The city has municipal elections scheduled in September and November.

Holding multiple elections in a short period of time this year “would place a large financial burden on the City of Holyoke” and “create barriers to accessibility, lower voter turnout, potential voter confusion, and place disproportionate burdens on traditionally disenfranchised communities,” the bill says.

Like a similar home-rule petition Boston officials received State House approval for after President Joe Biden nominated Mayor Martin Walsh as labor secretary, Duffy’s bill (HD 4106) seeks to waive the special election requirement this year. The Boston law became moot when Walsh — whose confirmation vote is set for Monday — stayed in office beyond the March 5 deadline.

Governor Charlie Baker signed a similar Lawrence petition into law when Dan Rivera left the mayor’s office there to take over as president and chief executive officer of MassDevelopment.

But the Holyoke bill has another element. If passed, instead of the city council president becoming acting mayor, the council would name one of its members acting mayor by majority vote. Council President Todd McGee said last week he would not be able to serve as acting mayor because of work commitments and a potential risk of conflict of interest “down the road,” according to a MassLive report.