Section 3. (A.) Whenever authorized by resolution of the county commissioners or by the advisory board on county expenditures, or on petition of the registered voters of any county, except in Barnstable county an election shall be held in the county upon the question, ''Shall a charter study commission be created to study the present governmental structure of. . . county to consider and make findings concerning the form of government and make recommendations thereon?''
(B.) A petition calling for such an election must be signed by at least five per cent of the number of registered voters residing in said county at the preceding state election. The petition or any resolution of the county commissioners or of the advisory board on county expenditures under this section shall be filed with the state secretary not later than the last Tuesday in February in the year which the question is to appear on the state election ballot. Such petition may consist of a number of separate sheets, but each sheet shall be in substantially the form prescribed therefore in section fourteen and shall be signed in accordance with the instructions contained therein. The state secretary shall furnish forms for such petition to any registered voter of the county requesting the same; no sooner than six months prior to the date by which the petition is to be filed with the state secretary. The signature contained on said petition shall be certified by the board of registrars of voters of the cities and towns in the county prior to the filing of said petition with the state secretary. Such certification shall be performed in the manner prescribed for the certification of signatures on nominating petitions, under section seven of chapter fifty-three. Any petition or separate sheet of a petition submitted for certification shall be processed and returned to the person who submitted it within ten days after the submission. Objections to the sufficiency and validity of the signatures on any such petition as certified by the boards of registrars of voters shall be made in the same manner as provided by law for objections to nominations for county offices. Upon the filing with the state secretary of a petition under section three, the state secretary shall furnish a receipt for the same to the person or persons filing the petition, and within thirty days after the filing of any such petition which contains the necessary number of certified signatures, the state secretary shall notify the city council of each city in such county and the board of selectmen of each town in such county that the question of the adoption or revision of a charter under this chapter is to be submitted to the voters of such county; provided, however, that the provisions of this section for a petition of registered voters shall not apply in the year nineteen hundred and eighty-six.
(C.) When a resolution or petition for the creation of a charter study commission has been duly filed with the state secretary no other resolution or petition and no other proceedings for the adoption of any other charter or form of government available to the county may be filed unless the voters shall decide the aforesaid question in the negative or until the charter study commission created by the voters shall have been discharged.