June 24, 2018
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Sangerville plans special meeting to seat selectman

By Diana Bowley, BDN Staff

SANGERVILLE, Maine — A glitch in Sangerville’s election last month for a selectman has raised concerns from a resident in at least one other community about the legality of its town’s election.

Sangerville residents elected a selectman from the floor for a two-year term at the March 27 annual town meeting. Three people were nominated from the floor for the seat. Tom Carone, who was declared the winner, received 65 votes, Charles Cleaves received 43 votes, and Brent Randall received 27 votes.

It wasn’t until the next Monday when a neighboring town official pointed out that Carone had received a plurality and not a majority of the votes cast that the problem was noticed. To correct that, a special town meeting has been called for 9 a.m. Saturday at the fire station.

A majority means more than half of an amount; a plurality means more than the next-highest number.

If a municipality has no charter, state law must be followed for municipal elections, which requires that small towns follow a majority vote rule, not a plurality.

Sangerville, which has no charter and has a population of 4,000 and under, must follow the majority vote as outlined in Title 30, Chapter 212, of the Maine Revised Statutes.

“Very few towns less than 4,000 people in the state of Maine actually have a charter. Almost 80 percent of the towns in the state of Maine are under the Maine Revised Statutes,” Farmington lawyer Paul H. Mills, who is considered a specialist in municipal elections, said Monday. Mills, who typically moderates town meetings in the Skowhegan and Farmington region, was not the moderator at Sangerville’s annual town meeting.

For towns with more than 4,000 residents, voting is by plurality unless they have charters that specify otherwise, according to Mills. In addition, municipalities that have a nomination process in which candidates obtain signatures to get on the municipal ballot, also known as the petition method, must follow the plurality method, he said.

Sangerville’s plight caused an unsuccessful Brownville candidate to question the legality of his community’s election, according to Brownville Town Manager Sophia Wilson. She said that unlike Sangerville, Brownville does operate under a charter and follows the petition method, so the election in her community was legal.

Mills said the special town meeting in Sangerville should not be considered a continuation of the annual town meeting since the previous election was invalid, which means nominations will be accepted from the floor.

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