“ARTICLE 14. To see if the Town will vote, pursuant to General Laws Chapter
39, Section 15, to amend the General Bylaws by adding the following:
“Article IV – Two-Thirds Votes
“§ 45-5. If at any town meeting a two-thirds vote is required by statute, the
moderator may declare the result on the basis of a voice vote without a count,
unless the moderator’s declaration is challenged by seven (7) or more voters
before the meeting has proceeded to the next article.”; or to take any other action in connection therewith.
Submitted by BOARD OF SELECTMEN
Finance Committee Recommends Article 14”
The above Article 14 seeks to “save time” at Town Meeting with verbal Selectmen promises that it will only be used when, as and if it is “obvious” that only one or two Town Meeting Members voted in the negative. However, PLEASE NOTE, except for the 7 or more voter-initiated challenge, there are no restrictions, restraints or other safeguards to assure such limited use. THE MODERATOR WOULD HAVE COMPLETE DISCRETION TO DETERMINE THE OUTCOME OF A 2/3 VOTE WITHOUT A COUNT IF NOT CHALLENGED. This is a very slippery slope.
As a former Moderator, I can testify that, given the auditorium acoustics, variable volume of Town Meeting Member responses and the hearing ability of the Moderator, it is almost impossible to distinguish a margin of 1 or 2 votes whether for a majority [more than half] or super-majority [2/3] vote. Except for a unanimous vote, the only accurate way to assure the will of the people is to perform a physical count particularly in an exact 2/3-vote situation where one vote can make a difference. Super-majority voting requirements are usually reserved for articles of substantial, continuing importance to the Town and, because of that importance, require a count to provide accurate recognition/recording of the will of the people.
I respectfully urge you to VOTE NO on Article 14. Until secure electronic voting is here, lets “invest” a few minutes of Town Meeting time to make sure each person’s vote is honored by recording it properly and accurately and not let it be subject to the whim of any Moderator’s fallible hearing.
Atty Dave Miller, Heather Drive, Lynnfield, MA. Former Moderator.