WESTPORT — The Town Clerk’s Office is accepting applications until Nov. 1 from unaffiliated and minor party voters who would like to serve as justices of the peace for the 2017-21 term.

In accordance with state law, there are 60 justice of the peace positions: 20 for Democrats, 20 for Republicans and 20 for unaffiliated minor party members.

Both the Democrats and Republicans already submitted their list of JPs to Town Clerk Patricia Strauss in May; however, the only time for unaffiliated voters to become JPs is one three-month period every presidential election cycle.

If the major parties incur justices of the peace vacancies during the four year term, they can appoint JPs on a rolling basis.

But in the event of an unaffiliated JP vacancy, the only way to fill the position is to tap into a waiting list of applications Strauss compiles from the three month application period.

“Major party members over the next four years will have vacancies and the party simply has to make a new appointment, whereas the unaffiliated voters do not have that leeway,” Strauss said.

This year there are 18 incumbent unaffiliated JPs, but Strauss will not know definitively until Nov. 1 how many of those incumbents will choose to serve another term.

“By law, the major parties had to endorse their JPs by May for term of 2017-21,” said Strauss. “The major parties have already given me their lists. Now there are 20 more (unaffiliated justices of the peace) positions that need to be filled. Eighteen of the JPs are incumbents.”

In order to be eligible to apply, one must have been an unaffiliated or minor party voter since May 1, 2016. Registered Democrats and Republicans cannot become unaffiliated to apply to be an unaffiliated JP, according to Strauss.

“State Statute provides for a total of 20 unaffiliated JPs. If there are no more than 20 applicants, the Town Clerk is empowered to appoint all of them to the post of Justice of the Peace. Should there be more than 20 applicants, the Town Clerk is required to select 20 unaffiliated or minor party member justices of the peace by lottery no later than Nov. 22,” Strauss said.

The JP term runs from Jan. 2, 2017 until Jan. 4, 2021 and interested parties should contact the Town Clerk’s Office.

@chrismmarquette/ cmarquette@bcnnew.com