Town Meeting

Here in New England, many towns are run by Town Meetings.  It is very democratic. Things that need voting, such as the budget, accepting gifts of land, and putting up no-left-turn signs at popular intersections are written up as articles for Town Meeting.  Any resident who wants a say in how things are run has to show up.

Votes used to be taken by the moderator’s estimate of ayes and nays, and if that seemed close, by standing votes, and if that seemed close, by counts taken by pairs of volunteers.

These days we using Electronic Voting.  Each voter gets a little wireless keypad.  When the voiting lamp is on “the window is open” you press 1 to record a Yes or 2 to record a No.

This got me thinking.  It sometimes happens that a small subset of residents is Very Upset about something, like those no-left-turn signs.  Eventually, the rest of us get sleepy, and someone makes a non-debatable motion to close debate.  This requires an immediate vote and a 2/3 majority.  How about making the process continuous?  The voting gizmos have 10 buttons, I think you should be able to press “terminate debate” at any time, and whenever the total goes over 2/3 that’s it.

I would also recommend buttons for “the current speaker is annoying” and so forth, the results of which are put up on the jumbotron, but tiny steps for tiny feet.

And why do sponsors of popular articles, like the new solar panels, go on for 10 minutes presenting all the details of something that is going to win in a landslide anyway?