Petition effort over Groton charter collects 2,400 signatures

Groton — The group of residents seeking to petition the Charter Revision Commission to referendum collected more than 2,400 signatures by the Friday deadline, more than enough to place the question on the ballot if they're verified.

The petitioning group, called Groton’s Right to Vote, needed 1,900 signatures, or 10 percent of the town’s roughly 19,000 registered voters, to place the report on the ballot in November 2018.

The Charter Revision Commission report proposed multiple changes to Groton's government, including eliminating the Representative Town Meeting, creating a board of finance and holding an annual budget referendum. The former Town Council rejected the commission report on Nov. 28, 2017, which meant it wouldn’t go on the ballot unless it was petitioned to referendum.

A petitioning group organized quickly.

"At 2 p.m. we had over 2,400 signatures turned in to the Town Clerk, with more on the way," Bob Frink wrote in an email on behalf of the group. “Thanks to all the citizens who signed and to all the businesses that allowed us to stand by their doors.”

Town Clerk Betsy Moukawsher was working with the registrar of voters to cross-check signatures with voter registration records, and had verified 700 as of Friday. She was rejecting an average of one to two signatures on each page of 20, for reasons such as the voter wasn’t registered, didn’t live in Groton or the address and name didn’t match the registration records, she said.

Moukawsher expects to complete the verification process by Jan. 19.

Mayor Patrice Granatosky said in an email that the group “Neighbors Representing Groton," which has opposed the petition effort, hasn't decided on its next steps. 

“First, I write as a citizen of Groton, not as a Town Councilor nor as Mayor. I understand the petitions have been submitted to the Town Clerk. If a sufficient number of signatures are verified, we will then decide how to proceed," she wrote. "Neighbors Representing Groton is a bipartisan group with well-respected individuals from both sides of the aisle. This is not a Republican or Democratic issue. This is an issue of what is good for Groton.”

Groton’s Right to Vote had 45 days to get enough signatures, with Frink and about a dozen other members working through the holidays and single-digit temperatures.

“I mean, some days, you know how cold it’s been. There were times when I thought, ‘We’re never going to do this,'” Frink said.

Jay Dempsey, a former Groton City Councilor, still was filing signatures four hours before the deadline. “I had a lot of friends that came out of the woodwork that just came and handed me anywhere from six to 18 signatures, so that was nice,” he said.

“It’s pretty amazing,” said Bonnie Nault, a former town councilor who worked on the effort. “People want change.”

d.straszheim@theday.com

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