If an alderman steps down from the board beyond midterm, Somerville may soon change the way it fills the vacancy.
The Board of Alderman voted 9-0 Thursday to petition the state for permission to amend the city charter regarding how the city fills vacancies that arise on the board with less than a year until the next election.
Twice since December of 2012 an alderman has resigned and recommended his successor. In both cases, the Board of Aldermen approved the appointments.
But Ward 6 Alderwoman Rebekah Gewirtz, who chairs the board’s Legislative Matters Committee, said members of the committee wanted to make sure the people are deciding who is representing them.
“We came to a conclusion that it is not our role here on the Board of Aldermen, to decide who our colleagues are,” Gewirtz said.
The board voted to approve home rule petitions that would change the way the city would fill vacancies that arise among the four aldermen at large seats, as well as the seven ward seats, when there is less than a year before the next election.
If an alderman at large leaves office, the person who finished fifth in the voting for term would be asked to fill the seat. If that person is not willing or able to do so, the person who finished sixth in the voting would be asked. If that person is not willing or able and there are less than 180 days until the next scheduled election, than the seat would be left vacant until the next election. If there is more than 180 days until the next election, than a special election would be held, according to the proposal aldermen voted in favor of Thursday.
If a vacancy occurs in a ward alderman seat with more than 180 days before the next municipal election, the city would hold a special election to fill the seat, according to the proposed law.
Alderman at Large Dennis Sullivan said that he thinks the new way to fill the vacancies would take the politics out of the process.
“I think this is democracy in action,” he said.
The home rule petitions approved by the board Thursday must now be approved by the state before the Somerville City Charter would be amended and the new laws would be enacted.