In an April 30 letter posted to Wicked Local Wayland, resident George Harris lets his imagination (and his inner grouch) get the better of him.

Quote Originally Posted by George Harris
The recently concluded Town Meeting had more than its usual share of problems, many of which were quite serious in my view. Several of these problems emanated from the bleachers, where, in an April email, the Wayland Dads group directed younger families to sit. They came to vote for Article 26 and “While you’re at it, hang around to vote ‘no’ on Article 27.”

1. There have been allegations of voter fraud. Several voters in the bleachers were seen in the possession of multiple handsets, in violation of the Moderator’s Rules and Regulations, Section IV.D.1.b, printed in the warrant: “No person may lend or give that handset to another person, nor may any person vote with a handset originally given to another.” That rule exists to reduce the potential for proxy voting. (The term “proxy voting” may not be understood by newcomers to town meeting – it needs to be carefully explained by the moderator.)
Even though against the rules, proxy voting does not necessarily equal voter fraud. If a Town Meeting member is in attendance but temporarily unavailable to vote (perhaps because they are in need of using the restroom), there should be no objection to that member asking another member to cast his or her vote. I fully appreciate that the rules prohibit such an action--my point is simply that such a prohibition is, in my opinion, wrong.

That's a secondary point, however. Mr. Harris' bigger fault is in repeating anonymous and unfounded allegations. To my knowledge, no one has come forward to report that any Town Meeting member voted using another member's handset.

Innocent until proven guilty, Mr. Harris. Perhaps you were absent that day at law school?

Quote Originally Posted by George Harris
The moderator has warned voters that proxy voting is forbidden.
To the best of my understanding, the Moderator did not explain proxy voting or say anything about not voting on anyone else's handset at the start of (or at any time prior to the "fraud" complaints) on the Town Meeting night in question.

Quote Originally Posted by George Harris
But that is not enough. The rules against it must be enforced. The integrity of town meeting is at stake.
The "integrity of Town Meeting" is most certainly NOT a stake ... over this issue. Sure, Town Meeting has a problem, but that's not it. Don't get me wrong--I love the idea of Town Meeting even despite its sometimes excruciating tedium. But Town Meeting is only democracy for those who can manage to attend. I have no doubt that FAR (perhaps infinitely) more people have been disenfranchised by the very structure of Town Meeting than by the introduction of those infernal handsets.

Quote Originally Posted by George Harris
Anyone discovering multiple handsets in the possession of another should immediately report same to the moderator via a point of order. The handsets should be immediately confiscated from offenders. Some votes may have to be redone. Should this problem recur, it must be rectified at once, not after town meeting is over. If proxy voting is improper, then so is possession of multiple handsets, which facilitates proxy voting.
The Moderator's Rules and Regulations don't appear to spell out the consequences of abandoning a handset or being in the possession of someone else's. Until such consequences are spelled out, Mr. Harris' suggestions rise to the level of unacceptable voter disenfranchisement.

Quote Originally Posted by George Harris
2. It is also reported that the crowd in the bleachers was instructed how to vote via hand signals. An email sent by the Wayland Dads on April 11, 2015, advised, “If you have never been to town meeting, the ‘younger’ families usually sit in the bleachers. We will be there to help you understand how to vote.” And that’s exactly what happened.
It's not clear to me if Mr. Harris is objecting to the "We will be there to help" sentiment expressed in the email or to the fact of the email lobbying for votes. I hope not the latter, as Mr. Harris sent exactly such a note on April 12, 2015 clumsily asking people to vote no on Article 26, yes on Article 27, and yes on Article 31.

Quote Originally Posted by George Harris Email
Subject: Town Meeting Monday - Very Important for Your Pocketbook and the Town


Article 26, as worded, appropriates money to do only a “site review” at the proposed municipal parcel for the Council on Aging/Community Center. “Sub-surface site testing,” not simply “site review,” was recommended by the Town’s Licensed Site Professional to determine actual site conditions to ensure no risk to the Town. Second, there’s a deed restriction held by Raytheon. As the motion is written, Wayland does not have legal access to the site, nor does it authorize seeking it, and could face disagreements over that with the owner, Twenty Wayland, including over who pays for what.
Article 27 gives Town boards more time to develop well-prepared budgets and Articles, gives ALL citizens the opportunity to vote and to attend Town Meeting by restoring the long-held past practice (until 2011) of a late-April start date for Town Meeting.
Article 31 is a resolution to renew electronic voting for another 3 years. You know how important it is to vote in private. This article needs your vote so your privacy is not taken away. Electronic voting is efficient and saves hours of everyone’s time by eliminating standing, counted votes.


Yours for a better Wayland,
In his Wicked Local Wayland letter, Mr. Harris elaborates on his objection to vote signaling.

Quote Originally Posted by George Harris
What’s wrong with this? Don’t we enjoy free speech at town meeting? No, we don’t. All speech is regulated by the moderator and is to be public for everyone to hear at the meeting.
Where is it written that all speech at Town Meeting is regulated by the Moderator? Are two TM members prohibited from having a side conversation without the Moderator's approval? That notion is ludicrous on its face.

Quote Originally Posted by George Harris
Suppose a group of citizens goes to the election polls with an adviser. After the citizens receive their ballots, the adviser gives them hand signals how to vote. That’s election fraud under state law.
I'm not a lawyer and certainly don't know the law here, so I'll have to take Mr. Harris' word on this subject. Given the shakiness of the other words in his letter, though, perhaps I'm ill-advised to do so.

Quote Originally Posted by George Harris
Likewise, the moderator should not tolerate private voter indoctrination during the meeting. If the indoctrinator wishes to advise his crowd, he may do so at the microphone, where everyone can hear.
This is of course just Mr. Harris' opinion. In my opinion, nothing is wrong with vote signaling at Town Meeting.

Quote Originally Posted by George Harris
3. The moderator should discourage, in the strongest terms, voters seeking to engage him in private conversations during debate. Such communications have now become commonplace. It is a distraction to voters, if not to the moderator, who is charged with staying abreast of the proceedings, and that is quite difficult to do when barraged by sidebar inquiries.

4. Decorum further deteriorated by the circus-like spectacle of pajama-clad children of younger families “run(ning) around on the other side of the Field House,” as orchestrated in a Wayland Dads email. Who gave permission, when, and where is this permitted in the Moderator’s Rules and Regulations? Town meeting is the sine qua non of democracy in the commonwealth. The town’s legislature must not be treated as a romp in the park or a sporting event.
Mr. Harris seems to desire disenfranchising voters, perhaps especially those who are likely to disagree with him. Bah, humbug. (Or maybe he just has a hang-up over pajamas.)

I think that it's great that parents find Town Meeting important to attend that they bring their children along. Mr. Harris, unlike your off-base rant, THAT'S a great lesson about democracy.