Gov. Maura Healey signed a home-rule petition on Wednesday that establishes a lottery process that will determine the order of candidates listed on town election ballots in Marblehead.
The Massachusetts House and Senate gave their final approval to the proposed legislation last week. The bill originated as a citizen petition passed as Article 39 at Marblehead Town Meeting in 2022.
The bill will require Town Clerk Robin Michaud to hold a lottery for each race, drawing the names of all qualified candidates to determine their order on the ballot. Historically, Marblehead has listed incumbents first, then challengers.
The lottery system is more fair, say supporters.
“It will create a level playing field for all candidates,” said Bonnie Grenier, who was among the Marblehead League of Women Voters members who championed the citizen petition process last year.
Several neighboring cities and towns in Massachusetts have undertaken legislative measures to randomize the order in which candidates are listed on their ballots in recent years, including Swampscott, Beverly, Lynn, Peabody, Saugus and Salem.
“I think Danvers has been doing this since 1974,” said Grenier. “So we’re kind of coming at this a lot later than a lot of other towns and see it as a way to encourage more citizens to run for elected office in Marblehead.”
The public would have the opportunity to be present during the ballot-order drawing. Grenier credited the home-rule petition’s passage to the town’s legislators, Rep. Jenny Armini and Sen. Brendon Crighton.
“They were so diligent; they stayed on top of this,” Grenier said. “If they hadn’t kept at it, I don’t think we would be here right now.”
Armini lauded the Marblehead League of Women Voters for bringing the issue to the fore.
“The Marblehead League of Women Voters’ tireless advocacy brought this bill to life and fueled the legislative process,” Armini told the Current. “Thanks to them, Marblehead elections will be more fair and welcoming to all candidates — starting this June.”
The Legislature ran out of time to pass the bill during the previous legislative session but now crossed the finish line with Healey’s signature.
The signing of the home-rule petition comes days after Town Meeting sent a similar petition to Beacon Hill, this one to change Select Board terms from one year to three years.