Massachusetts General Law, Chapter 39 limits Open Town Meeting voting to in-person voting. This results in decisions affecting all residents being made by a very small percentage of registered voters who have the time, energy, interest, freedom and desire to attend Town Meetings.
While in-person attendance remains required for Town Meeting, we no longer have to go to the polls on Election Day; we can vote by mail. Concord provides for mail-in ballots on many important matters. Extensive advertising is used to promote mail-in ballots in an effort to minimize disenfranchisement and increase participation in the democratic process.
Remote voting technology is advancing as an alternative to in person voting. Electronic remote voting technology is not perfect but its inclusiveness and convenience seems superior to the low turnout associated with mandatory in person voting.
The following towns and individuals are working to make voting more inclusive and convenient:
1. Wayland citizens and their Select Board have approved the pursuit of state permission to vote remotely.
2. State Reps. Carmine Lawrence Gentile (13th Middlesex District including parts of Concord & Wayland) and David Paul Linsky (5th Middlesex District including parts of Wayland) and state Sen. James B. Eldridge (Parts of Middlesex and Worcester Counties including Wayland) have sponsored State House Bill No. 2053 that would permit Wayland to allow remote voting during Wayland Town Meetings.
3. North Andover Town Moderator Mark DiSalvo has initiated an unofficial “straw poll” at Town Meeting to gain experience with remote voting. Although remote voting will not have any impact on the passage or denial of any warrant article it will be an interesting test. North Andover is “acting as a laboratory” to see what Town Meeting might be like in the future.
4. Cohasset and Westford are exploring remote voting for their Town Meetings.
I applaud these efforts and hope that Concord will embrace and pursue remote electronic voting at Concord Town Meeting.
Scott H. Gillis