Four charter ballot issues to face voter approval in November

Published on Friday, 12 August 2022 18:58
Written by Dean Wright


BRISTOL – Bristol residents will be deciding the fate of four voting options this November as the City Council and the Charter Revision Commission finished the process of bringing potential charter changes before voters for approval.

City officials noted some of the issues were simple to understand with one being a bit more complicated. The arguably easiest and fourth issue, voters will be asked to approve grammatical and technical changes to the charter as a means of correcting simple errors in language.

The third question deals with changes in Bristol’s electoral maps. As described by city officials, this would give more power to the Bristol Registrars of Voters – one a Democrat and the other Republican –  to update maps so that they more closely correspond with the redrawing of state redistricting lines, which happens every 10 years with the conclusion of the U.S. Census. Due to having to meet various federal mandates and in the hopes of keeping polling locations consistent and to avoid the creation of new ones, officials hope the change can streamline the local district redrawing process with voter approval.

The second question asks voters if they wish to add to the city’s charter the potential for increased penalties and processes for the removal of city elected and appointed officials from office who have been convicted of criminal activities.

The first asks residents to consider increasing the office of mayor from two to four years. This was also brought before votes in 2010 but did not pass.

Bristol Mayor Jeff Caggiano noted that Bristol has a “recall option” given to it by a special act voted on by the state legislature in 1911 when the city formed and there was some fear that it could be eliminated by changing the term of the office of mayor. Because of this, city officials additionally wished to ask that residents consider increasing penalties against appointed and elected officials as a check.

The mayor said that the issue of changing the mayoral term from two to four years would not eliminate term limits in Bristol. He noted that should the issue pass, this would mean that a mayor could not consecutively serve more than eight years. They would simply be running for two time periods of service in office instead of four. To account for Caggiano being the current mayor, the question has been written in such a way that should he run for mayor again in 2023 and get elected to a four-year term, he would not be allowed to run for another four-year term. He would effectively be limited to a consecutive six years in office, should the question pass voter approval.

The City Council previously asked the Charter Revision Commission to consider drafting an option to be brought before voters that would allow for the potential of minority political party representation on City Council by increasing the number of councilors allowed in the organization from two to three per council district. This was also connected with an increase in the Board of Finance as the group has traditionally existed to be a check on City Council spending issues in joint meetings.

Several councilors voted against bringing the option before voters because they felt it increased the size of government. Many voiced that they weren’t against having Republicans and Democrats in the same council, but that it should be decided by voters. Councilor Cheryl Thibeault previously argued the voters should still be allowed to see a minority party representation question and decide for themselves if they liked the idea.

When voters elect City Council members, the two offices in each district are given to the two individuals with the most votes. Should the issue have come before voters, it would have increased that number to three.

Caggiano noted that a Charter Revision Commission would likely be called upon again in the future to consider a minority party representation issue as many liked the idea, but councilors did not like the current language in which it could have been implemented.

Posted in The Bristol Press, Bristol, Forestville on Friday, 12 August 2022 18:58. Updated: Friday, 12 August 2022 19:00.