Our Form of Government

Town Meeting

When Dover was incorporated in 1836, the General Court granted a charter for a full Town Meeting form of government. This is still in existence today. Any registered voter is eligible to attend and to participate in both Annual and Special Town Meetings.

Our Annual Town Meeting usually begins in May and consists of two parts: the deliberative session and the town election. The deliberative session of the Annual Town Meeting is held no later than the second Monday in May. A quorum of 175 registered voters is necessary to transact business at the town meeting. The meeting is then adjourned to a date no later than the first Monday in June for the Town Election, which is the last article of the Town Meeting Warrant. The Town Election is held from 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. The primary purpose of the Town Election is to elect citizens for public office. In addition, voters at the Town Election may approve or disapprove certain spending decisions approved by the voters at the Annual Town Meeting.

At the deliberative session of Town Meeting, the articles of the Warrant are acted upon. The Warrant, which includes articles of all normal appropriations of the Town and any special articles requested by ten or more voters in writing, is prepared by the Selectmen and sent to every registered voter at least 14 days prior to the stated Town Meeting. In addition, each voter receives a report, known as the Blue Book, from the Warrant Committee prior to Town Meeting. The Warrant Committee consists of nine members, none of whom shall hold another Town office, who are appointed by the Moderator for a three-year term without pay. It serves as an investigatory and advisory body for all articles included in the warrant and has jurisdiction over the Reserve Fund throughout the year.

The Moderator, under State law, is an elected official who “presides and regulates the proceedings, decides all questions of order, and makes public declaration of all questions of order, and makes public declaration of all votes.” Customs unique to Town Meeting permit the Moderator to use his/her judgment in applying rules of parliamentary procedure except where state laws or town by-laws specifically regulate.

The Town Clerk, who is also an elected official, makes a record of all motions and votes of the Town Meeting and the Town election. This record is published in the Town Report, published annually by the Town.

Any voter may address the Town Meeting after being recognized by the Moderator. Upon rising, he/she should say “Mr./Ms. Moderator” and state his/her name and address. He/she may wish to discuss the question at hand (always relating his/her remarks to the subject under discussion), to pose a question, to ask for information, or to make a motion. The Moderator can require a voter to present in writing any original motions or amendments that significantly change a motion.

Voting is usually done by a voice vote, although a majority of the voters in attendance may request written ballots. If the Moderator’s decision on the voice vote is challenged, a standing vote is required. Generally the adoption or amendment of a bylaw requires only a majority vote, but a two-thirds vote is required for the adoption or change of a zoning bylaw as well as for certain bonding appropriations. No vote shall be reconsidered at the same Town Meeting unless  a motion is made within a half hour of the adoption of the vote or requested by two-thirds of the voters present and voting thereon.

A Special Town Meeting may be called during the year by the Selectmen to consider a matter of urgency that has not been authorized by the Annual Town Meeting. If the Selectmen do not act in a situation of concern to the residents, a petition signed by 200 registered voters can also convene a Special Town Meeting.

Elections in Dover

In accordance with the General Laws of Massachusetts, notifications of a forthcoming local election must be given at least seven days in advance. The warrant is posted on town bulletin boards, and a copy is mailed to each voter; the Selectmen also publish it in the local newspapers.

In Town elections, the polls are open from 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.

ELECTION TIMETABLE
Town Caucus
Annual
March or April
Town Meeting Annual
1st Monday in May
Town Election
Annual
3rd Monday in May
State Primary Every 2 years
7th Tuesday prior to State Election
State Election (includes county officials) Every 2 years
(even-numbered years)
1st Tuesday after the 1st Monday in November
National Primary Every 4 years
1st Tuesday after the 1st Monday in March
National Election
Every 4 years
1st Tuesday after the 1st Monday in November

Qualifications for Voting

A person must meet the following qualifications in order to be eligible to vote in Dover:

1. Citizen of the United States

2. 18 years of age by Election Day

3. Resident of Dover

4. Registered voter in Dover.

Registration for Voting

The Town Clerk or the Board of Registrars may register a person meeting the above qualifications, at the Town House. Registration hours are during Town Clerk’s office hours, currently Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. and Tuesday and Thursday from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Special registration hours before all elections are posted on the homepage of this website and in local newspapers preceding any election.

Registration is closed for a brief time before election in order to prepare the voting lists (28 days before regular state primaries and state elections; 20 days before town elections or special elections; and 10 days before special town meetings). It is possible to register during this “closed period,” although eligibility to vote is deferred to the following scheduled election.

Registration need not be renewed as long as residence in Dover is maintained. A name changed by marriage, divorce, or court order must be re-registered in the appropriate form.

Board of Registrars

This Board consists of three members, each appointed for a one-year term by the Selectmen on a bipartisan basis, plus the Town Clerk who is an ex officio member of the Board. In addition to the registration of voters, the Board is responsible for publishing the Voting Lists and the List of Residents, which is compiled yearly from the January census.

Voting Procedures

Primaries

While local elections have been historically non-partisan, every fourth year voters may cast their ballots for members of the Democratic or Republican Town Committees, which promote the interests of these two parties in state and national elections.

Since primary elections are a method of selecting political party candidates to run for office at forthcoming state or national elections, a voter going to the polls at a primary must request the ballot of his/her party if he/she indicated a party choice at the time of voter registration, i.e., registered Republicans must take only a Republican ballot and registered Democrats must take a Democratic ballot. Unenrolled voters may request either a Republican or Democratic ballot.

In national, state and town elections, any registered voter is eligible to go to the designated polling place, receive a ballot, mark it in the privacy of an enclosed booth, and deposit it in the locked box which automatically tabulates the number of ballots cast. A line is drawn through the name of each voter on the Registrar’s List of Voters as he or she enters the polling place and before he or she leaves the polling place. At present, the Town House is the sole designated polling place in Dover.

A sample ballot and a copy of questions to be submitted to voters are posted outside the polling place. No one may legally approach a voter on political matters within 150 feet of the entrance to the polling place.

Absentee Voting

Absentee voting is allowed in state, national and town elections but not in Town Meetings. A person who is ill or who is to be away from Dover on Election Day may apply to the Town Clerk for an absentee ballot. The Town Clerk mails out the ballot, which must be marked and mailed back in sufficient time to be received by the Town Clerk before the polls close.

Candidates for Local Office

Any interested citizen who is a registered voter may become a candidate for any office where there is a vacancy to be filled. Town elections are strictly non-partisan.

Caucus

The Caucus is a meeting of citizens called by the Selectmen and usually held in March or April for the purpose of making nominations for local offices. Any citizen seeking an office may have his or her name placed in nomination, be seconded, and have his or her qualifications stated. When the nominations are closed, the polls are opened and all registered voters present may vote for the candidates of their choice. They are provided with a ballot on which only the offices, not names, are printed. Each voter fills in the names as desired.

The two people receiving the highest number of votes cast for an office become official Caucus Nominees and are so designated on the ballot on Election Day.

Nomination Papers

A citizen who was unsuccessful in becoming a Caucus Nominee, or did not have his or her name presented at the Caucus, may run on nomination papers. These are obtained from the Town Clerk and must be signed by 25 registered voters. Nomination papers must be filed with the Board of Registrars at the Town Clerk’s office at least 49 days before Election Day.

Write-In Candidates

In addition to the more traditional process of Town Caucus and Nomination Papers, occasionally a candidate will seek election by having voters write in his/her name on the printed ballot on Election Day.