District 68 primary and special elections would cost Bristol, Warren thousands

Still many unknowns as state officials await Laufton Ascencao's official letter declining House seat

By Ted Hayes
Posted 12/7/18

It could cost the towns of Warren and Bristol anywhere from $10,600 to $18,600 to stage primary and special elections to fill the vacancy created by the departure of District 68 Representative-elect …

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District 68 primary and special elections would cost Bristol, Warren thousands

Still many unknowns as state officials await Laufton Ascencao's official letter declining House seat

Posted

It could cost the towns of Warren and Bristol anywhere from $10,600 to $18,600 to stage primary and special elections to fill the vacancy created by the departure of District 68 Representative-elect Laufton Ascencao. And depending on how those elections go, the cost could be double that amount.

On Wednesday, Mr. Ascencao said publicly that he will not take his seat in the General Assembly, following the disclosure that he falsified documents and lied to members of the Warren Democratic Town Committee about a mailer he was supposed to send out prior to the November election, but never did. And while Mr. Ascencao has not yet officially submitted a letter of withdrawal to the Rhode Island Board of Elections, Warren and Bristol town clerks Julie Coelho and Louis Cirillo said they are planning their response on the assumption that he will.

“We have to plan for this,” Mr. Cirillo said.

Ms. Coelho estimates the cost to hold a primary and special election in Warren will run $2,600. District 68 covers a small portion of Warren, and she said the town will only open one polling station — St. Mary of the Bay Church. Though she is planning and calculating costs, Ms. Coelho said that “right now, as far as I’m concerned there is no election until” Mr. Ascencao officially drops out.

In Bristol, Mr. Cirillo estimated the costs could be higher, though at this point he only has estimates and there are “a lot of unknowns.” However, his best guess is that the primary and special elections will cost $4,000 to $8,000 each, resulting in a total cost to the town of $8,000 to $16,000 for both.

Since voting is generally lower in primaries, Mr. Cirillo said that while Bristol has four polling stations for Districts 68 voters, he hopes that the town can economize, consolidating equipment and using fewer poll workers on the assumption that turnout will be low. However, he still doesn’t know what the town’s setup will be.

“We never quite know what we’re going to have to do. All we have at this point are estimates.”

How the special election plays out also has a bearing on how much each town will be obliged to spend. There are currently five potential candidates who have expressed interest in running — Warren Democrat June Speakman, Warren Independent Joseph DePasquale, Warren Libertarian William Hunt, and Bristol Democrats Andrew Tyska and Timothy Sweeney.

Mr. Sweeney is a member of the Bristol Town Council. If he wins the District 68 seat, Bristol would be obliged to hold another special election to fill his vacant town council seat. And if more than one candidate from any one party expresses interest and files to run for that seat, the town would be obliged to hold a primary election as well.

In that case, the costs for Bristol would be much higher, Mr. Cirillo predicted. Unlike a District race, a town council race is town-wide and the state would likely require Bristol’s Board of Canvassers to open all polling stations for that primary and the resulting special election for the council seat, Mr. Cirillo said.

State officials have not yet informed Warren and Bristol officials on possible dates for the District 68 primary and special election. Mr. Cirillo said that once a date is set, there will be much to do and many key dates for candidates: A declaration period, a deadline for nomination papers and the signatures required of voters, and the like.

“There’s a lot to it,” he said.

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