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Letter to the Editor: Vote to end party caucuses in town

by | Nov 3, 2023 | Letter to Editor

A recent letter to the editor in the Hopkinton Independent urged Hopkintonians to vote “no” on Article 2, a measure to be considered in the upcoming Special Town Meeting on Nov. 13. I understand the author’s concerns about the potential elimination of local caucuses, and I appreciate the perspective she shared. However, I would like to offer a different viewpoint on the matter of eliminating local Democratic and Republican caucuses in Hopkinton.

The writer wrote that local caucuses play an important role in helping get more candidates on the ballot, but what she does not illuminate are the unintended consequences of this. For instance, candidates who do not secure enough signatures during the nomination process (or decide not to collect any signatures at all) may be using the caucuses as a workaround or shortcut to the ballot. This deprives voters of the opportunity to get to know each candidate, and it enables political parties to insert candidates who have not done the legwork to earn a place on the ballot.

The writer further states that indicating a candidate’s party affiliation on the ballot provides additional information to voters. While that’s certainly the case, it’s worth noting that party labels can also be limiting. Voters might be inclined to make their decisions based solely on party affiliation rather than considering a candidate’s individual qualifications and positions. This is known as “down-ballot” voting, and I suspect this was the case in May’s contested School Committee election. Newcomer Susan Stephenson, who was virtually unknown in Hopkinton, received slightly fewer votes than Adam Munroe, who is well known in town. Both were the Democratic caucus nominees.

Regarding the argument that eliminating caucuses won’t stop people from arguing about politics, that’s certainly true. However, it’s important to acknowledge that the existence of political parties can also be a point of contention and may contribute to division within the community. We in Hopkinton don’t have to follow the national paradigm. We should be more concerned about what’s best for Hopkinton rather than holding steadfast to party dogma.

There are 351 towns and cities in Massachusetts, and of those, only 13 continue to allow partisan elections at the local level. The rest have done away with the practice. At Special Town Meeting, let’s come together to reduce the number to 12. I urge you to vote “yes” on Article 2.

— John Cardillo, Hopkinton (a sponsor of the article along with Ed Harrow)

Editor’s note: The opinions and comments expressed in letters to the editor are those of the writers and not necessarily those of the Independent. Submissions should be no more than 400 words and must include the writer’s name and contact information for verification. Letters should be relevant and not primarily for the purpose of promoting an organization or event or thanking sponsors or volunteers. Letters may be edited by the Independent staff for space, errors or clarification, and the Independent offers no guarantee that every letter will be published. For a schedule of deadlines for letters and other submissions for the print edition, click here.

2 Comments

  1. Amy Groves

    I am perplexed at the assertion that a caucus “deprives voters of the opportunity to get to know each candidate, and it enables political parties to insert candidates who have not done the legwork to earn a place on the ballot.”
    Have we forgotten the HCAM Contested Candidates’ debate, the Women’s Club Meet the Candidates event, the candidate statements published in the Independent and elsewhere, the Facebook pages, newspaper and online ads, and unlimited opportunities for voters to contact candidates directly? All of these take place after the caucuses.
    To me, “doing legwork to earn a place on the ballot” means presenting the voters with the qualifications and commitment to get the job done. (This is what Susan Stephenson did and rather than call her out I suggest you read her qualifications again, and consider that she submitted nomination papers in addition to running at caucus.) I have known a number of people over the years who have been happy to step up and serve our town, but who don’t consider themselves political animals and would rather run at caucus. They served the town well. Why would we want to make it harder for these folks to serve our community, or at least present themselves to the voters?
    I think Hopkinton voters are an intelligent bunch and I trust them to make good choices as long as they have the information they need. I’m taken aback by the idea that a majority are voting solely for a letter and completely ignoring the candidates. (By the way, this would be “voting a straight ticket,” not “down ballot voting.”) Some voters may consider the R or D designation after a candidate’s name as one of their criteria; some may not. It should be their choice. 
    I’m disappointed about the mention of “party dogma.” Our elected officials disagree all the time, even when they are members of the same party. What dogma are they following?
    I can’t tell you how proud I am of the Democratic party platform, not dogma, and of Democrats’ demonstrated ability to keep learning and improving. I respect others’ right to disagree and to express that disagreement at the polls. But is the author of this letter truly in disagreement? John, you’re an Associate Member of the Hopkinton Democrats, a committee which I chair. Please don’t be a stranger. We have a big tent and you are welcome always.

  2. Beth Malloy

    As for the spring SC election Susan being an ‘unknown’ I think many people actually did know her. Especially those over in senior housing. John are implying she got elected because of the (D) next to her name? That was not why I voted for her.

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