Improving on town meetings

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The editorial of April 25 urged Rumford citizens not to exchange their traditional town meeting for secret ballot voting. The editorial asserted that the “tradition is one of the richest and most direct forms of democracy on the planet. the epitome of local control and one-person, one-vote.”

The social and economic foundations of that “tradition” have changed. We no longer even vote at our town meetings on the largest component of local taxation: the school budget.

The editorial fails to recognize that this form of “direct democracy” effectively disenfranchises disabled persons and those who commute great distances for work. A secret ballot, with the availability of an absentee ballot, would remedy that.

Seth Carey and Tom Carey responded that many choose not to participate in the open-vote meeting because of real or perceived intimidation, leaving voting to a minority.

On May 16, Buckfield will hold a public hearing on a petition by 143 voters to change the format of its town meeting, by holding a deliberative session at the end of May, to debate and amend articles, and voting by secret ballot on election day in June, when we “traditionally” vote for selectmen, assessors and school board members.

Our petition leads to a more inclusive form of democracy: it preserves the best of traditional town meeting with open debate, amending articles, meeting neighbors – and the secrecy of the ballot and availability of an absentee ballot that most of us cherish in our democratic system.

Judith Berg, Buckfield

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