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What is a Citizens’ Petition?


WESTFORD — The deadline is fast approaching for residents to file a Citizens’ Petition, but many remain unaware of this legal mechanism. 

A Citizens’ Petition is a statutory device where individual citizens can add their own agenda items to Annual Town Meeting. Petitions can include a number of subjects, including adopting, repealing or amending town bylaws. Other topics can include amending or making budgetary appropriations or proposing a nonbinding, non-debatable resolution.

Developed by the Select Board, the Warrant is composed of articles proposed by town departments and committees. These articles are sent for consideration and action during the Annual Town Meeting.

For a Citizens’ Petition to be placed on the Annual Town Meeting Warrant, at least 10 registered voters in Westford must request for the petition to appear on the Warrant.

With a Special Town Meeting, a higher threshold must be met for a Citizens’ Petition to appear on the Warrant. At least 100 registered voters or 10% of registered voters of the town must request for the petition to appear on the Warrant, whichever is lesser.

Previous years have seen a number of petitions filed, with the Annual Town Meeting in 2021 holding a vote for three Citizens’ Petitions. These petitions included Article 15 which called on the United States Congress to pass and send to the States a constitutional amendment that would limit corporate personhood and overturn the decision of Citizens’ United v. Federal Election Commission, which considered political donations as speech.

Two additional petitions were proposed, both Article 16 and Article 17. Article 16 authorized the Select Board to petition the state for an additional all alcohol license, while Article 17 restricted motorboats on Keyes Pond.

Both Article 15 and Article 16 passed by majority during the Annual Town Meeting in 2021, while Article 17 was dismissed but later passed at Special Town Meeting in 2021.

According to Town Manager Jodi Ross in an email to WestfordCAT, no Citizens’ Petitions have been filed for Annual Town Meeting as of March 30. The deadline to file a petition is Tuesday, April 5 at 2 p.m. Signatures must be submitted to the Town Clerk’s office for certification.

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Ben Domaingue
Ben Domainguehttps://www.clippings.me/bendomaingue
Ben Domaingue has previously worked at newspapers in New Hampshire and is the Managing Editor covering Westford. He’s passionate about community journalism, photography and hiking. Email him at bdomaingue@westfordcat.org.