During the spring months a lot of towns hold Town Meeting. This is a meeting that usually happens once a year when all the people who live in the town and pay taxes are asked to come together to vote on how the town will operate in the next year.

Town Meeting serves many of the same functions as the Legislature in Augusta and the Congress in Washington, passing laws and adopting budgets.

A moderator runs the meeting (usually someone who does not live in the same town but not always). The first thing the townspeople do is elect a moderator.

At the meeting the townspeople are asked to vote on warrant articles which is simply a fancy name for items to be voted on. These articles are mostly budget items about how the town should spend the taxpayer’s money. The town’s budget has been formed by a committee of citizens and offered to the town select board for approval. Sometimes the selectboard approves the budget as offered. Sometimes it makes changes.

As the moderator reads out loud each warrant article the townspeople have an opportunity to ask questions and share their thoughts on the article. Then the townspeople are asked to vote. Most of the time they vote to approve the item. Sometimes they do not.

Town Meeting can last from minutes to hours. This depends on how many warrants there are and how the meeting is structured by the town. In some towns lunch is offered! It is also a time when people can get together especially with people they don’t see often.

Elections

Along with annual Town Meeting comes elections. These are to elect townspeople to sit on the Board of Selectmen or Town Council or other board that runs the town. Also, townspeople might be elected to sit on the school board.

Elections may occur in two ways. The traditional way is to nominate officials from the floor of the meeting and to vote by a show of hands or by writing names on a paper ballot. A more recent way (1890) is to require candidates to declare their candidacies prior to the Town Meeting by taking out nomination papers. Voting is then done by secret ballot in the privacy of a voting booth.

Even though Town Meeting might seem boring, it is a foundation of democracy where everyone has their say and get to vote on how things will be done and how their tax dollars are spent. It is very important to be part of that.

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