HARVARD — When voters convene for the this year’s town caucus, they will be continuing an increasingly uncommon New England tradition.
Only a handful of communities in the commonwealth still use the time-honored route to nominate candidates for the local ballot, said Town Clerk Janet Vellante.
“I’m not sure how many towns in the state still do a caucus. It’s about a half-dozen or more,” she said. “I think it’s what was originally done, and a lot of towns have since changed it and gone to nomination papers.”
“Pulling papers” to appear on the ballot is an option in Harvard, but Vellante said most candidates historically have taken the caucus route.
Pulling papers means an individual must obtain 29 certified signatures. Nomination at the caucus requires only a motion and second.
“A lot of people prefer to do the caucus,” she said. “It’s easier.”
Paperwork for a nomination is accepted by the Town Clerk until Feb. 13 at 5 p.m.
Town caucus is governed by procedures outlined in Massachusetts General Law, said Vellante.
Once a quorum of 25 residents has gathered, the town clerk calls the meeting to order. After that, nominations are taken for a presiding officer and secretary who take over for the town clerk.
From there, the offices open for election are read and nominations are taken.
Vellante said the entire process typically lasts about 20 minutes.
Among the offices up for re-election this year are two seats each on the Board of Selectmen, Planning Board, and Board of Health. There’s also a term ending on the School Committee, Community Preservation Committee, Housing Authority, and Park and Recreation Commission.
Neither Vellante or local history buff Dr. Jeffrey Harris could pinpoint how far the tradition dates back offhand, but Harris said it’s been a fixture in Harvard for at least 53 years.
“It’s been around as long as I’ve been around,” he said.
The caucus will convene Feb. 3, at 7 p.m., in the Town Hall meeting room.
The election will be held April 3.