Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

July 31, 2009

21 for City Council, 9 for School Committee

Filed under: 2009 Election — Tags: , — Robert Winters @ 6:21 pm

July 31, 5:00pm – The deadline has now passed for candidates to submit nomination papers for the 2009 City Council and School Committee elections. Randy Fenstermacher, Sylvia Barnes, Kevin Moore, and incumbent City Councillor Marjorie Decker did not turn in the necessary signatures prior to the filing deadline and will not appear on the November ballot.

Aug 2 Update: Marjorie Decker has announced that she will run as a write-in candidate for City Council. From a note sent to her supporters:
“I am writing to assure you that I am running for re-election to the Cambridge City Council. As some of you may have heard, I did not get my nomination papers in on time this year. There was some internal confusion in my campaign. That said, I take full responsibility for the failure of my campaign to file the papers on time. After speaking to quite a few of you and consulting with some campaign and election professionals, I have concluded that I can and should enter this election. This does not minimize the additional challenges and the amount of work this has created for me and my supporters. At this time, however given my leadership on key issues that are important to all of us, I have been encouraged and have decided to pursue a write-in/sticker campaign.”


  1. Is Marjorie planning a write-in campaign? Or has she decided not to run?

    Comment by Ann — July 31, 2009 @ 8:13 pm

  2. Wait, how did this happen?

    If this is true Bob, how would it change the complexion of the race? What/who is her base?

    (ps, this forum is a good idea)

    Comment by Dee — August 1, 2009 @ 7:35 am

  3. It’s not yet known why Marjorie’s nomination signatures were not submitted. My guess is that someone who was supposed to submit them neglected to do so, but this is only a guess. Marjorie has a campaign kick-off event scheduled for August 6, so it’s hard to imagine this being intentional. I’ll speculate no further on the cause.

    Marjorie could run a write-in campaign, but that seems like an impossible task in that she would probably have to hit quota just on #1 votes (since #2 write-ins are not very likely), and Marjorie has never been elected on the 1st count (#1 votes only). There are also a fair number of credible and attractive challengers this time.

    As to Marjorie’s “base”, I’ll let others speculate on that.

    Comment by Robert — August 1, 2009 @ 7:56 am

  4. It is hard to believe that Marjorie Decker missed the cut. @Robert, I think your analysis is spot on. One thing is sure, guide dogs are howling their relief. Unless, of course, the Election Commission mislaid her submissions?

    Comment by Kathy Podgers — August 1, 2009 @ 12:42 pm

  5. Marjorie Decker has announced that she will run as a write-in candidate for City Council.

    Comment by Robert — August 2, 2009 @ 11:34 pm

  6. A few years ago, I submitted 100 signatures, carefully obeying state law.

    51 signatures were trashed through flat out refusal to obey state law (signatures valid on copies – flat out refusal to obey the then recent Jack E. Robinson case, binding nature reaffirmed by state election commission who stated that it was inconceivable that a city solicitor would bless such behavior, solicitor response reminds me of the judge).

    I went down to the corner of Mass. Ave. and got 41 signatures in one evening.

    “Accidental” failure to submit really takes doing.

    Comment by Bob La Trémouille — August 3, 2009 @ 10:10 am

  7. I am curious how much extra money this is going to cost the city for this election since all the votes will have to be hand counted to account for the Decker write in campaign. I personally am offended that one of my city councilor’s feels this sense of “entitlement” to her candidacy and that she is some how exempt from following the legal procedure by which every other candidate had to abide to be considered for the election.

    Comment by Colleen Court — August 3, 2009 @ 11:25 pm

  8. Though I cannot speak to future decisions by the Election Commission or its staff, I can say that managing a significant number of write-in ballots does not necessarily have to cost any additional money. The scanners are programmed to set aside ALL ballots that have a write-in marked with any ranking. These “auxiliary ballots” will not be included in any preliminary tally on Election Night, so I expect this preliminary tally to be somewhat meaningless (though it will create a lot of suspense for the following day).

    The great majority of ballots will not have write-ins, and the preferential rankings on those ballots will be captured by the scanners on Election Day as usual. Even if Marjorie’s campaign generates a significant number of write-in ballots, their total will likely be somewhere between 500 and 1500, and that is an entirely manageable number to be inspected by the Election Commissioners on Wednesday.

    In fact, if the Election officials are smart about it, they could scan all of the ballots that have Marjorie in the first Write-in line and simply recognize her as Candidate WI01 (Write-In Position 1). Any remaining ballots with other write-in names could be replaced by substitute ballots preserving all preferences but placing the other write-in name in Position 2 (or later). Any ballots with Marjorie marked in a later Write-in line can be handled with a substitute ballot with the Decker Write-In placed in Position 1. This procedure will be relatively fast and will capture all Decker Write-Ins as Candidate WI01 and all other write-ins as Candidate WI02, Candidate WI03, etc. The ballots have space for up to 9 Write-In choices, but ballots with more than one Write-In are quite rare. I have the ballot data for the 1997, 1999, 2001, 2003, 2005, and 2007 elections to back this up.

    There’s every reason to believe that complete election results can be available by Wednesday evening as usual. The only reason for any significant cost increase (in my opinion) would be if one or more candidates demanded a recount. Only then would all ballots have to be hand counted unless all parties agree to a simpler approach. Let’s hope we don’t have to go down that road.

    Comment by Robert — August 4, 2009 @ 12:25 am

  9. The Chronicle reported that “Because she is not on the ballot, Decker will not be able to get elected on transfer votes in this election.” Is that a rule – that write-ins cannot receive transfer votes? Or do you think they are just over-stating that it is unlikely that she would get many as a write-in candidate?

    Comment by Catherine — August 6, 2009 @ 10:22 am

  10. Though I don’t want to gang up on the Chronicle reporters (though it’s tempting), their knowledge of Cambridge and of the Cambridge municipal elections tends to be somewhat lacking.

    All candidates, including write-in candidates, are eligible to receive transfer votes. The rules governing the election (M.G.L. Chapter 54A) make no distinction between candidates named on the printed ballot and write-in candidates.

    The likelihood of Marjorie receiving many transfer votes will be relatively low simply because most voters who would write in her name will give her their #1 preference, and even if some voters do write her in with a #2 or lower preference, far more voters will cast a ballot with no write-in votes. Though it’s important for all candidates ask for #1 votes, it is incumbent upon Marjorie (no pun intended) to make the strongest possible appeal for #1 votes in hope that she’ll be elected on the 1st Count.

    Comment by Robert — August 6, 2009 @ 10:50 am

  11. Robert,

    I tried to find that law you mentioned. It looks like it was repealed about 40 years ago.

    Am I not looking in the right place?

    Comment by Dee — August 6, 2009 @ 11:03 am

  12. It’s true that Chapter 54A was repealed by the Legislature in 1972, but it’s “grandfathered in” for Plan E cities that were using this election method prior to the repeal. I have the text of Chapter 54A posted at

    Comment by Robert — August 6, 2009 @ 11:16 am

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