Let All Voters Have Their Say

By Mike Flaherty | Apr 24, 2012


As the discussions regarding the school department's debt exclusion and override Articles come to the forefront at Town Meeting, I think it is important to remind and reiterate what many others have:  A Yes vote for these Articles does not necessarily mean you support their ultimate passage.  All it means is that you wish to move them forward to be put on the ballot in order to appear before a much larger electorate.

As the Finance Committee put it in their report regarding some of these Articles (using Article 26 as an example): "The Finance Committee recommends Favorable Action on this Article in order that the proposed Proposition 2 1/2 override may be submitted to the total electorate of the Town for their decision"


I am reminded about a prior Town Meeting where many changes to the Town's charter were deliberated (Fall 2010).  At that time many of the shortcomings of Town Meeting were discussed.  It was painfully pointed out how difficult it is for folks to attend who may work nights, have young children, are single parents, or who are elderly to name a few.  For my own part, I got to the microphone at the time and noted how Town Meeting unfairly discriminates against our servicemen and women who may be stationed elsewhere domestically and around the globe.

The bottom line:  All of these folks are disenfranchised by our current form of Town Meeting.

One answer to address these issues was Article 37 at the time.  It would have allowed controversial Articles to appear on the ballot.  In that way, then people would have all day to show up for a few minutes to vote rather than attend marathon Town Meetings night after night that go to 10pm and beyond.  Even our servicemen and women could vote via absentee ballot.

Alas, that Article did not pass.  I do not wish to re-hash the details of that vote, but I do wish to commend some of my newer friends in Town for now seeing the value of putting some articles on the town ballot for all to have their say.  That's progress.

And at this time I also want to remind some of my old friends of the value that this approach brings as well.

To that end, here are some salient quotes from some folks at the time of the Charter Review discussion at Town Meeting.  These are excerpted directly from The Wareham Observer website.

Thank you for your time.

Mike Flaherty


In case it wasn't clear, the views I am expressing here are my own and I am not representing any board, committee, or any other group that I may be a member of.


Selectmen debate Charter Review Committee articles
By: Robert Slager
Posted: Saturday, October 2, 2010 5:49 pm


    Selectman Brenda Eckstrom said the article would increase voter participation, especially because many residents cannot attend Town Meeting because of work and family commitments.
    “It’s only fair to try to reach out to all the people and to give everyone an opportunity to have their say,” she said.
    Eckstrom also noted that the current location of Town Meeting – The Wareham High School auditorium – is only equipped for 400 voters. She wondered what would happen if far more people turned out than that.


Posted November 10, 2010

“We should be encouraging as many voices as possible on the most important issues.” – Michael Schneider, in support of placing certain warrant articles on a town-wide ballot.


By: 4dognite on 10/2/10


...tell me why you would want to prevent any article from the ballot box? Preservation of democracy? Are you saying that sitting next to someone and holding up a card for all the world to see (opponents, customers, neighbors: some vindictive) and photographed [SNIP] is more democratic then enjoying the privacy of a ballot box? Really?


By: cranberry on 10/3/10

Rob, At least when an item is on the ballot, those who are away from home on election day, can still vote absentee. The drawn-out nature of the TM seems to preclude participation from Seniors due to lack of transportation and again to the length of the meeting itself.


By: downtheroad (Andrea Smith) on 10/5/10

Every precinct deserves equal representation. As for putting Article's on a town wide ballot, that's long overdue. No one should have someone staring over their shoulder when they vote, nor should they have the threat of a camera being thrust in their face when they vote.



The birth of the charter change battle
By: In This Corner - Robert Slager
Posted: Tuesday, October 5, 2010 9:43 am


There's another article that asks that controversial Town-Meeting articles be placed on a town-wide ballot. Shouldn't Wareham strive to give all residents a voice? Many senior citizens can't sit through six nights of Town Meeting but they can spent a few minutes casting a vote in a polling booth.

Comments (10)
Posted by: bob | Apr 24, 2012 16:37

you said it all,as when i was in the service i always requested a ballot,and im sure as you point out there are military,seniors,and many hard working people who cant attend due to work,and other family matters....

Posted by: ltirish | Apr 26, 2012 11:25

Thanks Mike for your thoughtful comment.  My husband is not able to attend TM as he is at home with our child (I wish I had two hands to raise as he was texting me his votes from home).  My mother is not able to attend TM either because she is at my brother's home watching his child while mom and dad are either at work or on there way home from work (they work shifts).  In my small family alone only 1 out of 5 registered voters who live in Wareham are able to make it to TM.  I PROMISE you that they would all appreciate their chance to vote.

Posted by: Zephyr | Apr 26, 2012 18:05

Mike,  Article 37 was no-brainer.  I think we all know why it didn't pass...  I hope Wareham tries to pass it again.

Posted by: Mike Flaherty | Apr 26, 2012 19:08


Article 37 did make a lot of sense.  However, the opponents did have a valid point.

As presented, once an Article failed, all it would take would be 25 people to agree to place it on the ballot.  This would have ensured nearly every Article that either "side" had an interest in would end up on the ballot. 

That sort of makes Town Meeting moot (or maybe that's the point?).


I think it would be viable if it was amended so that if an Article didn't pass by more than, say, 5% above the needed majority then have it be an option for a vote of 25 people to place it on the ballot.  But also make it so that it would go to the next "regular" ballot and not a "special" ballot (unless something else unrelated necessitated a special ballot).  That would  eliminate any additional costs.

Zephyr, do I infer correctly that whether or not you agree or disagree on the merits of the debt exclusion/override Articles, you do support them going to a full vote of the town?


Posted by: Zephyr | Apr 26, 2012 20:03

Mike, I absolutely agree that it should go before the full town on a ballot.

BOS meetings can be very informative.  Town meetings can be also. But I’ve seen far too many special interest groups take over town meetings.  And then they leave once their item has been voted on.  It just doesn’t seem like a very fair system to me.  Most times I find it very hard to be away from home all day working and then try to leave the house again at night to go to a BOS or TM during the week.  Many things get passed at TM that I may disagree with but there is nothing I can do because I have responsibilities at home in the evenings.  But if the items were on a ballot, I could stop by the polls on the way home from work and vote.  I would then feel that my voice is being heard.  The items I vote for may not pass but at least I voted.   There may be Selectmen that I didn’t vote for but I still think it would be fair to give them the $500 a year.  And even something like that should go on the ballot where full town can vote.  They would have received a “YES” vote from me.

Let me know if I left anything out.

Posted by: Mike Flaherty | Apr 27, 2012 11:05

With regard to the process, I think you covered it all, Zephyr.

In fact, thanks for being so clear.

Posted by: AustinSpeaks | Apr 27, 2012 12:01

I agree that some things need to go to the ballot. I also agree that more things need to go, however a lot of articles can't simply go to a ballot because no body heard anything about them until it became an article. I believe that in situations like that having a person stand up and explain to a large body the pros and cons for an article far out ways the scratching of yay or nay on a ballot. I do also believe that TM should probably grown into a forum of just sending things to the ballot. Meaning TM hashes it out and votes whether the selectmen should put it on the ballot or not. But you have to remember that even though it goes to a ballot there's no guarantee everyone in town will vote either. Larger than 500 people sure, but still a larger portion of the town will be left out because they can't leave work, leave their homes or plain just don't care. There will never be a perfect system.


With that said. The reason I personally voted down the selectmen portion of TM is because I don't think the Selectmen can say they volunteer more than the finance committee or the school board and we don't pay them why should the BOS be more deserving.  A lot of the time it is their lack of organization to handle things in a timely matter that becomes their own downfall. They may meet every week but in the past boards have been just as successful every other week and sometimes more successful.  I know the finance committee isn't an elected board, but that do as much work as the other two and sometimes more. But they all put themselves into the fray knowing they weren't getting paid.


I don't feel we can afford to pay any board right now. I even voted no against the moderator getting her money. Our income economy is going to lose teachers, custodians, people at town hall maybe more to come further than that. How can we honestly say that the volunteer boards are any more deserving of money than  the 9-5ers we're about to fire? What kind of message does that send?

Posted by: Mike Flaherty | Apr 27, 2012 12:20

We are getting way off topic here, but hey, why not?


Back during the Charter Review discussions prior to that Town Meeting, one of the most interesting ideas, I thought, came from a blogger named Ms. Lilly. 


She mentioned how some towns in NH use a hybrid form of Town Meeting whereby Town Meeting meets as it does here.  However, the purpose of TM is to discuss/vet the Articles and amend them at will.

However, the final vote then goes to the ballot.


I love this idea because it satisfies both the supporters of TM and the supporters of the ballot - I think.

Posted by: Zephyr | Apr 28, 2012 06:10

I will agree with you again, Mike.

Posted by: Theresa ONeill | May 01, 2012 21:41

Mike Hybrid version of town meeting sounds great. how do we get that on town meeting agenda? Everyone in town should be able to vote on town issues. Having only 250 out of a town of 20K deciding on things is a sign the town meeting system here is not effective.


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