New Bedford City Hall

Running for Office in New Bedford

Michael Silvia
by Michael Silvia

In the 2009 New Bedford elections, several candidates ran unopposed.  Out of the six ward City Council elections, three of the candidates had no opposition (Wards 1, 2 and 5*). Little changed for the November 6th, 2012 elections. Nine out of 11 south coast Massachusetts candidates ran unopposed. There may be numerous reasons for this, but in my opinion, the citizens of New Bedford deserve to be given a choice between several qualified candidates for all elected, political offices in New Bedford.  The process to become a candidate for a New Bedford office is simple, but there are strict requirements and time lines that must be fulfilled.

It is important that potential candidates understand the election cycle time line, the requirements to get on the ballot, the rules established by the election commission, and the office positions available.

New Bedford Elections 101
Unlike state and national elections, local elections are non-partisan.  This means there are no parties involved or attached to a candidate (i.e. Democrats versus Republicans).  By law, preliminary elections are held on the 4th Tuesday preceding city elections.  This means on the first Tuesday in October (4 Oct, 2011), all qualified candidates are voted on by registered voters. The top two finishers move on to the final municipal election on 8 November, 2011.  The winner of the Municipal Election is sworn in and serves office on 1 Jan, 2012.

2011 New Bedford Elections
You must get at least 70 signatures to run for a New Bedford Office.

Candidate Requirements
All persons wanting to run for public office in New Bedford must fill out and submit official nomination papers to the Board of Election Commissioners.  These nomination papers, which aren’t available until 19 May, 2011, must be filled out completely, correctly and have signatures of at least 70 registered voters on it.  While the requirement is 50 signatures, registrars are required by law to certify 2/5th more than the number of signatures required. Why? Because signatures can get be disallowed either in the certification process or through challenges.  My suggestion is to get at least 100 signatures and follow these rules:

  • The person signing must be a registered voter.
  • Make sure the person signing fills out their correct name and it matches the name they used to register to vote.
  • Make sure the name is legible and signed in pen.
  • Make sure the signer includes their present address and not mailing addresses, like P.O. boxes.
  • No nicknames or initials.
  • Voters can sign for multiple candidates so don’t be fooled into thinking a person can only sign for one candidate.
  • Candidates running for Councilor At-Large seats can get signatures in any ward within the city.  Ward candidates must get signatures from the residents in the specific ward they reside in and want to represent.  A New Bedford Ward maps can be found here.


New Bedford electiosn 2011

2011 New Bedford Election Timetable

  • 19 May: Nomination papers become available at the New Bedford City Hall
  • 16 Aug: Deadline for filing nomination papers for certification of signatures (5 PM)
  • 30 Aug: The last day to officially file nomination papers (5 PM)
  • 01 Sep: The last day to withdraw from race or object to nomination papers (5 PM)
  • 14 Sept: Last day to register to vote for Preliminary Elections
  • 26 Sept: Last day to file Political Finance Statements with the Board of Election Commissioners (5 PM).
  • 01 Oct: Absentee Voting (9 AM – 12 PM)
  • 03 Oct: Last day to file an absentee ballot application for Preliminary Election (12 PM)
  • 04 Oct: Preliminary Election (7 AM – 8 PM) – top two move on to the Municipal Election
  • 11 Oct: Last day to file recount petition with Board of Election Commissioners (5 PM)
  • 19 Oct: Last day to register to vote for Municipal Elections (8 PM)
  • 31 Oct: File Political Finance Statements with the Board of Election Commissioners (5 PM)
  • 05 Nov: Absentee Voting (9 AM – 12 PM)
  • 07: Nov: Last day to file for an absentee ballot application (12 PM)
  • 08 Nov: Municipal Election (7 AM – 8 PM)
  • 18 Nov: Last day to file recount petition (5 PM)
  • 1 Jan, 2012: Winning candidates are sworn into office
  • 20 Jan: File Political Finance Statements with the Board of Election Commissioners

New Bedford Elected Offices
There are a total of 16 elected offices in the New Bedford elections.

  • Mayor – Chief executive of the city.
  • City Council (11 Seats) – Responsible for setting the city budget and appropriating all funds to run the city.  Confirms all mayoral appointments and is responsible for confirming all mayoral appointments. There are two types of city councilors; Councilors-at-Large and Ward Councilors:
    • Councilors-at-Large (5 seats)
    • Ward Councilors (Wards 1-6)
  • School Committee (3 seats) –  There are seven seats on the school committee; the mayor and six elected officials. Each serve four years and three come up for election every two years.
  • Assessor – Determine the value of all real and personal property located within the City of New Bedford for taxation purposes.

Important Resources:

New Bedford Election Commission
City Hall, Room 114
133 William Street
New Bedford, MA 02740
Tel. : 508. 979.1421
Fax: 508. 979.1422
Hours: Mon-Thurs 8-4, Fri 8-12

* During the 2009 Ward 5 election Elliot Matthews dropped out of race against Jane Gonsalves. He still received 689 votes compared to Jane Gonsalves 1,511 votes.

About Michael Silvia

Served 20 years in the United States Air Force. Owner of New Bedford Guide.

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