Southampton Town residents heading to the polls on November 3 will not only be asked to fill several town government positions, they also will cast votes on three ballot proposals, including a new town special elections law.
Proposal III on the ballot, if approved, would mandate that Southampton Town elected positions that are vacated mid-term would be filled via a special election held 60 to 90 days after a vacancy is declared. If a vacancy occurs within 90 days of a regularly scheduled general election, the post would remain vacant until the general election.
Suffolk County will cover the cost of those special elections if the voters approve the ballot proposition on Tuesday.
Presently, a special election is not required in Southampton Town, and if an elected official vacates a seat in the middle of a term, the Town Board can appoint a replacement. That’s what happened in February 2008 when Dan Russo was tagged to serve on the Town Board after Councilwoman Linda Kabot was elected supervisor halfway through her term on the board.
The majority of the Town Board supported the change and voted this summer to put it on the ballot. Supporters, including Ms. Kabot, argue that appointments give the appointees an unfair advantage in the next election.
Ms. Kabot, a Republican who is running for reelection, said the initiative would increase the accountability of elected officials and reduce instances of political patronage positions.
“It’s a reform of the election procedures in the Town of Southampton,” she said. “Basically, it is to end stacking the deck and let the people decide the people on elected boards rather than the party leaders.”
Ms. Kabot acknowledged that if the ballot initiative is rejected by voters—and she is defeated by her opponent, Councilwoman Anna Throne-Holst—Ms. Throne-Holst would have a hand in choosing a temporary successor. “If the voters vote no, then Anna would ultimately have a hand in choosing who would replace her on the council,” Ms. Kabot said.
The other two propositions involve statewide matters. Proposal I would allow National Grid to construct a high-voltage power line on 6 acres of state-preserved lands along State Route 56 in St. Lawrence County. In exchange, National Grid would dedicate 10 acres of equal-value land for preservation. Proposal II would authorize the State Legislature to amend the State Constitution to allow prisoners to volunteer to work for non-profit companies.