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The Valley Reporter
P.O. Box 119
Waitsfield, VT 05673

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‘Having a voice’

To The Editor:

We had hoped that discussion of the question of an Australian ballot would arise in the January-February timeframe. Fairness can be defined as an equal opportunity, specifically in the case of having a voice in local government. The present system of floor votes from only those in attendance excludes many registered voters:

  • 1. Many long-term residents winter in Florida, Arizona and warmer climes.
  • 2. Individuals who cannot afford to lose a day's pay.
  • 3. Persons who cannot afford the time nor have the patience to spend up to three hours to cast a vote that is recorded only as a "majority approval" or "unanimous."
  • 4. Persons who protect their privacy particularly if they are in opposition to a popular resolution.
  • 5. Those who are infirm, physically unable to be present.
  • Many of these voters could have the opportunity to vote by absentee ballot!

Most individuals agree that a written Australian ballot will increase participation. For example, the recent revote on the town office had 33 percent participation with absentee ballots accounting for 8 percent of the total. This is significantly above the estimated 10 percent (150 people) who attend Town Meeting. Outside statistics support the higher participation rate.

The Valley Reporter's editorial of December 12 acknowledges there would be greater participation using the Australian ballot but questions "the quality of that participation." Does that mean that individuals attending the Town Meeting, who feel strongly about an issue, enter into the discussion and pose amendments, are more qualified than other voters? This seems to be a justification for special interest politics which the founding fathers warned against, have weakened trust in the federal government and threatened to alienate a portion of our community – just the opposite of the goal of "enforced civility" that the editorial espouses.

There will be plenty of time in the new year for further discussion of this issue. Addressing a select board member's concern about the possibility of operating without an approved budget for a longer period of time, please note this concern is alleviated by the proposal to move to a July 1 fiscal year and methods to improve participation and discussion prior to the vote on Town Meeting Day.

In the interim, let us all look forward to this holiday week, good snow and a chance for all of us to vote at next March's Town Meeting.

Deri Meier


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