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Moderator Institutes Change in Town Meeting Rules and Regulations

We received the following from Moderator Peter Gossels regarding Town Meeting Rules and Regulations:

Those of you who attended the November 18, 2009 session of our Special Town Meeting, or saw it on television, will recall that I made a controversial ruling in response to a request by more than seven voters that I recount a vote under Article 3 of the Warrant, which was commonly referred to as the “Town Center article”.
 
I instructed the tellers to “poll” the voters once more based on my reading (and understanding) of G.L. c. 39, § 15, which provides that, “If a vote so declared is immediately questioned by seven or more voters, (the Moderator) shall verify it by polling the voters …” I had taken a voice vote and then a non-counted vote, but I was in doubt as to whether the motion had passed by the two-third majority required to change the zoning laws applicable to the “Town Center”. As a result, I called upon the tellers to verify the vote by polling the voters because I had not “declared” the votes before calling for the standing counted vote, which carried the motion by 553 votes to 271. 1585 people had checked in that evening, but 761 had left after the Meeting had approved the bond issue needed to build a new high school. The poll to “verify” the vote resulted in a standing counted vote of 297 votes to 216, short of a two-thirds majority after 311 more voters had left the Field House.
 
Although the motion to rezone the “Town Center” carried after reconsideration the following evening, by a vote of 531 to 251, my ruling to poll the voters after a standing counted vote was widely criticized. As a result, I decided to consult with my fellow moderators in Massachusetts, who maintain a “chat room” called “Gavel Line”. Their response to my inquiry was nearly unanimous: It is their practice to poll the voters only after they have declared the vote based on a voice or non-counted standing vote and never after a standing counted vote.
 
Although I still believe that my reading of G.L. c. 39, § 15 was correct, I am not so arrogant or intransigent to ignore the opinions of so many experienced colleagues and residents of Wayland, who have criticized my ruling for a variety of good reasons.
 
As a result, I will no longer verify the results of a standing counted vote that I have declared, unless “clear and convincing evidence shall have been submitted to the Moderator that fraud, the incompetence of one or more tellers or some other irregularity has infected the accuracy of the vote count just completed” and I have so amended the Moderator’s Rules and Regulations Governing Wayland’s Town Meetings.
 
                                                                                                C. Peter R. Gossels
                                                                                                Moderator of the Town of Wayland

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