The Process To Change Worcester’s Government

City charter changes are required to change how city government is structured, from the power of the executive to the responsibilities of the legislature. 

A Two-Year Process to Reform

 

Massachusetts enacted Home Rule in 1966 to enable greater autonomy for its cities and towns. While critics dispute that it accomplishes that goal, Home Rule does set out a process for charter reform through a direct voter initiative. Home Rule is codified in M.G.L. Ch. 43B. The office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth produces a guide on local charters. It provides information on all methods available to amend or rewrite the charter, including the Home Rule provisions.

  1. A petition to establish a Charter Commission – Due for submission July 28, 2025
    • The petition must include a number of certified signatures from registered voters equal to 15% of the total registered voters at the time of the last municipal election.
    • 17,119 certified signatures will be required; there were 114,124 registered voters in Worcester on election day 2022.
    • Campaigns typically submit about 20% more signatures than needed to account for those signatures not certified.
    • Our goal would be to collect 20,000 petition signatures by July 28, 2025
  2. A ballot measure and election of a Charter Commission
    • A successful petition would place a question on the ballot: “Shall a Commission be Elected to Revise the Charter of Worcester?”
    • On the same ballot, voters would elect a nine-member Charter Commission.
    • The Commission would take office only if the ballot question was approved by voters.
  3. The Charter Commission has 18 months to finish its work
    • The Commission may issue a report to the City Council on its recommendations within 18 months after the date of its election.
    • State law governs the procedures of the Charter Commission process, which includes public hearings.
  4. Voters decide
    • In the election following the Commission completing its work, voters would accept or reject the Commission’s recommendations as a ballot question.
    • If votes approve the measure, the new City Charter becomes the fundamental legal document of the city’s government.
    • State law is supreme. Any provision of the City Charter that violates state law will not be enforceable or go into effect.