Dresden officials have delayed until June 9 a special election scheduled for April 7 to choose a candidate to fill the seat being vacated by First Selectwoman Trudy Foss.

At the Board of Selectmen meeting Tuesday, elected officials also extended the deadline for nomination papers to be turned in for the selectman seat that’s up for election in June.

Elected officials across Maine are having to make similar decisions as public health mandates designed to slow the spread of the highly contagious coronavirus restrict activities that are likely to put people in close contact with each other.

Michael Henderson Kennebec Journal photo by Joe Phelan

Dresden Town Administrator Michael Henderson said nomination papers for the June election would ordinarily be due 60 days before the election, putting the original due date at April 9.

“Given the stay-at-home order, no one is going to be able to collect signatures,” Henderson said. “It shortens our timeline. It gives us five days to have absentee ballots to go out the following week. But we had pretty much the same timeline for absentee ballots for the April special election, and we didn’t have a problem.”

In mid-March as public health officials were beginning to limit the size of gatherings in Maine to slow the spread of coronavirus, towns with Town Meetings scheduled were postponing them.

Dresden selectmen had opted to continue to conduct the April 7 election, encouraging people to vote absentee following safety protocols that curtailed in-person contact and limited polling hours.

At the end of its truncated session this year, the Maine Legislature enacted emergency legislation to allow public meetings to be held online, and to allow for annual Town Meetings, at which town residents vote on proposed annual budgets, to be delayed.

But on Tuesday in a meeting conducted on Zoom, an online video and audio conferencing platform, selectmen decided to postpone the vote until the June 9 election. At the same time, they also delayed the due date until May 8 for nomination papers to be be turned in for the selectman’s seat that’s up for election then.

Towns with March Town Meetings were able to postpone them and continue spending based on their last approved budget until they can hold a Town Meeting.

Earlier this year, Foss submitted a letter of resignation to the town because she was moving across the river to Richmond. Because of the delay in the special election, Foss rescinded her letter Tuesday and delayed her exit date.

Four candidates are running for that seat: Sabrina Doray, Donald Gleason, Dwight Keene and John Rzasa.

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