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Thread: When 2/3 isn't

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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Wayland MA

    Default When 2/3 isn't

    Here's my take on last evening's Special Town Meeting and the Town Center article (Article 3).

    • A standing counted vote conducted using the dual-teller system confirmed a 553-271 margin (I think those numbers are correct--please let me know if they aren't), which at 67.11% just barely exceeding the 2/3 margin required for approval.

    • While there was no reason that I saw to doubt the count (given the dual-teller system and the likelyhood that a recount would have been no more precise than the original count), the rules allow a recount to be taken if 7 voters so request. They did.

    • Typically, the recount request has been deployed when the Moderator has made a discretionary decision about a voice vote: did the spoken "yeas" outweigh the spoken "nays" or not. While recounts may be legal following a standing counted vote, that does not necessarily make them appropriate unless their is clear evidence of a miscount.

    • In the meantime, and probably before the tellers even began to count the "no" votes, many "yes" voters had departed. More followed before the recount request was made. Town Meeting veterans may have known that such a departure should not have taken place until after the article was disposed, but it is understandable that more novice attendees would not have been aware of this subtlety.

    • Perhaps some of those requesting the recount thought that there was a reason to suspect that the original count was improperly conducted. Or, perhaps they saw the exodus and realized that the 2/3 majority no longer held. Truth serum would probably be the only way to know with reasonable certainty which it was.

    In my 15 years attending Town Meeting, this is the first time that I can recall the deployment of a Parliamentary maneuver to circumvent what appeared to have been a properly conducted vote. To be sure, reconsideration has been used in the past, but the rules of reconsideration make trickery difficult (and have since been tightened further), and in any event give more warning and a fair chance for both sides. In fact, one casualty of the new reconsideration rules is that "improper" recounts become harder to correct.

    In the end, I think that the Moderator did the right thing given difficult circumstances. Common sense says that you don't interrupt a count to adjourn or even table a motion. I hope that for future Town Meetings, the Moderator will clarify the precedence of motions in this area. Moreover, I hope that future proponents of Town Meeting articles drill home to their supporters the importance of staying until the gavel strikes.

    Having fully entered the arena of using the rules to circumvent a result, I would lose no sleep if the Town Center proponents again got their vote out (having done so once) to support reconsideration and passage. And should reconsideration fail, I would have no objection to residents calling another Special Town Meeting to right what I think was a wrong outcome last night.
    Last edited by Jeff Dieffenbach; 11-19-2009 at 12:09 PM. Reason: Changed yes vote from 555 to 553

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