Secret-ballot issue on agenda

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MEXICO – Selectmen and Budget Committee members are to decide at Wednesday’s 6 p.m. Board of Selectmen meeting if they’ll recommend switching to secret ballot voting for town meeting warrants.

Voters, however, get ultimate say at town meeting in June when the referendum question shows up. Public informational meetings are to be held in May.

At Wednesday night’s meeting, Town Manager John Madigan is expected to have another draft of the one-sentence article, this one to include the cost to switch.

At the board’s April 12 meeting, Madigan read his first draft: To see if the town will vote by secret ballot on all warrant articles at the June 2007 annual town meeting.

It was decided he should add the $4,500 estimated cost involved to the article rather than make it be a separate article.

Also at that meeting, Selectmen Chairman Barbara Laramee asked other board members to weigh in on the matter.

Laramee and Selectman Reggie Arsenault both said they’d recommend a No vote; Selectmen George Byam, Ritchie Philbrick and Peter Merrill said they weren’t yet ready to decide.

Laramee said she can’t see the point of spending $4,000 to $4,500 just to get the same result as that provided by the current method of a show of hands on town meeting articles.

Arsenault, who has opposed the issue since it came up last fall, remained unchanged.

He also addressed intimidation, an issue that has continually surfaced in months of sometimes heated discussion between selectmen and the Mexico Taxpayers Association, which filed the petition to change to secret ballot voting.

“I’ve never been intimidated, so I’m not in favor of it, no way, no how,” Arsenault said.

Merrill said he was neither for nor against it.

“It is a fact that the end results are not going to change,” he said.

“I do like the idea of more people taking part in our community government, because we get a better mix of government, I think,” Merrill added.

Byam said he likes the current method of discussing an article, “voting it down if you don’t like it, and getting town business all done at one time.”

Petitioners still want town meeting to happen, just have all voting on articles done the following day at the polls.

Byam said he likes the idea that Maine is a home-rule state that has been governed by town meetings for 200 years.

“Maybe, it’s just because I’m not intimidated like you claim some people are. Sometimes, I don’t like the way it turns out, but, you know, the majority of people there seem to do a good job, and the towns keep operating,” Byam said.

“Being a selectmen now, I can see no frivolous frills in town government in Mexico. It’s going pretty good the way it is,” he added.

But, he said he liked some things about the secret ballot method, and wasn’t going to decide until June.

Philbrick, who is the only one seeking re-election in June, sided with Byam, but he agreed with petitioners, that town meeting voting can be intimidating.

Then, when petition signature gatherer Marjorie Richard tried to poll selectmen to see where they stood, Laramee ended discussion and move to the next agenda item.

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