Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 53, Section 18A allows the placement of Non-Binding Referenda on the ballot for town elections. Non-binding referenda may be placed on the ballot through three ways:
1) The Board of Selectmen may decide to place this type of question on the ballot at least 35 days before the date of the election.
2) A petition may be presented to the Board of Selectmen with the signatures of ten registered voters requesting that such a question be placed on the ballot. Petitioners are advised to do this at a time that will allow the Board of Selectmen to make such a decision at least 90 days before the date of the election. The Board may choose to place the question on the ballot or may choose not to.
3) If the Board chooses, at least 90 days before the date of the election, not to place the question on the ballot, then the petitioners can obtain the signatures of at least ten per cent of the registered voters of Halifax requesting that the non-binding question be placed on the ballot and submit them to the Town Clerk. The Town Clerk has seven days to certify the signatures. If the signatures of at least ten percent of the registered voters of Halifax are so certified, then the question will be placed on the ballot of the next town election held more than 35 days after such certification.
Petitioners should understand that the Board's decision to place a non-binding question on the ballot will be made by determining whether there is sufficient reason and interest to place the question on the ballot. For example, it requires only ten signatures to place an article on the warrant at an annual town meeting, one hundred signatures to place an article on the warrant for a special town meeting, and two hundred signatures to require that a special town meeting be held. The Board may decide that to show that there is a sufficient level of interest in this matter, that the petitioners gather the signatures of ten percent of the registered voters without the Board taking a particular stand on the question itself.