With the passing of the Town Charter in 2016, Charlotte now votes the Town budget and “budget related articles” by Australian ballot, but that is not done on Town Meeting Day. We discuss all the articles at town meeting, and amendments can be made to those articles, off the floor, by the people in attendance on Town Meeting Day. In the past, we have had approximately 200 people participate on Town Meeting Day. The end result of the floor discussion of the town budget and budget-related articles (maybe amended, maybe not) on Town Meeting Day produces the Australian ballot that is now voted on at a special meeting, warned for a later date (April 11 this year).
We do vote for our town and school officers and consolidated school budget by Australian ballot on Town Meeting Day. This year we also voted for the new fire truck by Australian ballot on Town Meeting Day. A total of 840 people voted by Australian ballot at town meeting.
Over the past seven to eight years, the number of people voting by Australian ballot on Town Meeting Day has been 800 to over 1200. So when we are looking at how the Charter is working, as far as preserving Town Meeting and enabling more people to vote, it’s important to compare Australian ballot numbers on Town Meeting Day to Australian ballot numbers at a Special Meeting in April, which would be 840 to 475 for this year.
This difference in voter turnout may say that it would be better if all voting occurred on one day, Town Meeting Day. The first Tuesday in March is the day people expect to be voting. It is the day you will get the highest possible number of people to come out and vote—that one day. The more spread-out the process becomes, the less participation you will have. But, for now, we have a Charter.
Section 7 of the Charter states: “…Absent action to repeal or modify this Section 7, this charter shall expire, terminate and have no further force and effect four years from the date of passage by the legislature.”
It will be interesting to see over the next four years what will happen. Will there be more or less participation on Town Meeting Day in March for the floor discussion? Will voter participation by Australian ballot in April increase over time as people get used to this process or will it continue to be half the amount of participation that we see in March?
Looking for feedback from all sides and what you think needs to happen to increase participation. There were newspaper articles, warnings, and postings on Front Porch Forum about the April 11 election, but clearly that was not enough. Only five people showed up for the informational meeting before the election. It seems as though we could do better, so what do you all need to make this happen?
Mary A. Mead