Friday, November 3, 2006
Why no recount of close vote?
When Article 1 at the Special Town Meeting on October 30 fell just two votes shy of the two-thirds majority needed for passage, many wondered why there was no recount. The following day Town Moderator Tom Raftery explained, "A recount is appropriate if there is clearly a clerical error. I did check with [Town Clerk] Charlene [Hinton] as to whether there was any perceived error in the teller count, and she said 'No.'"
Article 1, the Recreation Commission's proposal to expand athletic facilities on the Banta-Davis Land, fell just short of the 2/3-majority needed, with 197 (66.1%) voting in favor and 101 voting against the project. If two voters had changed their minds, Article 1 would have passed. Roughly two dozen of the 325 attendees chose not to vote.
Raftery said he is guided by the Town Meeting Handbook, as well as by Town Counsel, who was present on stage during Town Meeting. Afterwards, Raftery checked with other towns' moderators, who concurred about recounts: "Unless there is a clear indication of error, you don't do it."
There may be problems with a recount, Raftery pointed out, and the validity of a second vote may be challenged, particularly if any people arrived or left the room between counts.
The motion under Article 1 required a two-thirds majority to pass, because the expenditure of $1,594,800 for recreation facilities would have required a debt exclusion from restrictions on tax increases imposed under state Proposition 2.5.
Scanning the raised hands in the Corey auditorium, Raftery thought there was probably enough for passage, but requested the tellers count the votes because it would be close. When it failed by two, he said, "I was as surprised as anybody."
Reconsideration was possible
"Someone could have moved for a reconsideration," of Article 1, Raftery admitted. The motion to reconsider requires a simple majority vote. He explained that, without a town bylaw dealing with reconsideration, the request can only be made by the "side that prevailed."
Many towns have bylaws dealing with vote reconsideration, he said. Raftery plans to research specific wording and propose a bylaw revision to facilitate reconsideration of extremely close Town Meeting votes.
Another possible change he has suggested to the Town Clerk would be to use two tellers for each section of the auditorium instead of one.
© 2006 The