Town Meeting Types

Cities do not have town meetings but most Massachusetts towns do.

In Massachusetts there are two types of town meeting: OPEN and REPRESENTATIVE.

In an OPEN town meeting any registered voter of that town may attend town meeting and vote on behalf of their own opinions. Those citizens may also participate in more substantitive ways like speaking at the PRO 'for' or CON 'against' microphones. Those citizens may also approach the PROCEDURAL microphone for a point of order or to ask a question as asked through the moderator. The key in OPEN town meeting (like Wayland has), is that the citizens are legislators and they self-elect themselves to attend or not to attend. In this way, the citizens owe their vote to themselves. That is, they should have privacy in voting if they can get it. Wayland is the only OPEN town meeting (at this time) can can provide secret voting for every vote without trading off the element of substantial time.

Your attendance at town meeting is quite powerful. Every decision made at town meeting affects every person who lives in that town now and into the future. Spending money or not. Zoning or not. Making new by-laws or not. If we have 9,600 registered voters in a town and 500 attend and vote at town meeting then every one of those votes effectively represents 9,600/500 or 96/5 or approximately 20 votes. 20 to 1. Town meeting attendance takes time and effort but its well worth it and nowhere else can a sole citizen have that much of an impact for the effort required.

Electronic voting makes life easier, more efficient and gives us privacy at town meeting.

In a REPRESENTATIVE town meeting the citizens elect a fixed number of legislators who go to town meeting and represent everybody else. Unfortuanately the legislators are NOT required under any penalty to attend town meeting and may or may not represent your personal wishes. You may choose to not vote for those legislators next time they run but you cannot know whether to vote for them or not unless you know their voting record. There is where Privacy and Transparency become flipped.

In this scenario, the attendees are elected officials who are chosen by running for a legislative seat. The votes of these legislators must be transparent to the people. The elected legislators are the government which is elected by the people. As the banner above says: "Transparency is for the government and Privacy is for the People".

Framingham is a town which has also chosen to use electronic voting for its REPRESENTATIVE form of government and the electronic voting equipment used in REPRESENTATIVE town meeting is programmed to record and store the specific votes so that the public can look back to see the records of the legislators.

In these ways, OPEN and REPRESENTATIVE town meeting are quite different. 2013