RI Supreme Court Orders Special Election in Coventry - ABC6 - Providence, RI and New Bedford, MA News, Weather

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RI Supreme Court Orders Special Election in Coventry

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by ABC6 News Chief Political Reporter Mark Curtis  

mcurtis@abc6.com or @markcurtisABC6 on Twitter

The Town of Coventry has been ordered to hold a special election soon, to fill a vacant Town Council seat.

In a rare summer session, the Rhode Island Supreme Court convened over an election dispute that could not wait until November.

Back in February, a Coventry Town Councilman resigned.

There should have been a special election, but after some unknown person altered the town charter, no election was called.

The District 5 Council seat remains vacant, and many residents want a special election now.

"We are disgusted. We need representation. We want a voice. That's all we want is out constitutional right,” said Nancy Sullivan, a District 5 resident.

Most now agree a clerical error led to altering the town charter...and not an intentional, criminal act.

ABC6 Chief Political Reporter Mark Curtis said, "If the State Supreme Court orders a special election in Coventry, it's likely that vote will take place in early August."

The town lawyers argue there'll only be two or three council meeting before November, so the election should wait.

"The legislature has made it clear. That a special election is disfavored, the closer you get to a general election," said Arthur Read, a Lawyer for the Town of Coventry.

But that would mean District 5 residents going nine months with no representative.

"Listen, this is a case - for however we want to describe it - where the Town messed up. And to hold it against the voters, seems to me, to be contrary to what you've been talking about," said Justice Gilbert Indeglia.

"We want the Supreme Court to order an election in District 5 Coventry because we think that that's the Constitutional right of the voters of that District,” said Nick Gorham, a lawyer representing the residents of District 5.

The Supreme Court issued its ruling just after 5 p.m. Tuesday. It ordered the Coventry Board of Canvassers to conduct a special election. The exact date of that election still needs to be set.
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