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Just a Thought

I attended my community's special town meeting last week. If I remember correctly, the warrant only had 15 articles up for vote that evening. As I sat waiting for it to begin, I secretly thought (and wished) to myself that the meeting would last 90-minutes tops. Well, I must have jinxed myself right then and there because more than three and a half hours later, I was still there trying to keep focused and listen as residents debated the issues at hand.

Still, as I read through the warrant, I realized a number of articles coming up for vote that evening had a very familiar ring to them. And I can honestly say that's only because of my nearly ten years (yikes!) of covering town government for both Mendon and Upton.

Municipal electricity aggregation, marijuana moratorium, revolving funds, the Community Preservation Act; these were all on the warrant for one reason or another. And thanks to my job and the many town officials from both communities who have probably spent hours over the years educating me on various issues, budgets, and programs, I was able to make an educated vote for my community. I even found myself answering a question or two from other residents around me when I heard them questioning something aloud. As strange as it may sound, it felt good to understand the issues.

Still, one thing I had never seen in my years of covering town meetings was an electronic voting system that my town was using for the first time. Each voter was given a small, handheld device with a YES and a NO button to be pushed when the town moderator instructed residents to place their vote. Results are tallied within 30 seconds and shown on a large screen. Instead of a voice vote, which at times can be disputed, or a hand vote, which can take time to count, the electronic voting helps avoid those concerns. It was interesting and I would say quite effective.

As tired as I was after nearly four hours of sitting, listening, voting, and yes, yawning, I was glad I attended—even though I shook my head at some of the results. They say that town meeting is democracy in action, which I agree with. Still after this last town meeting, I'd also consider it an accomplishment.




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