To The Daily Sun,
Voting on issues that face a town is a civic duty that for hundreds of years has been done in a traditional town meeting format. There have been changes to who can legally vote on these issues in the hundreds of years but not to the format in New Hampshire until Senate Bill 2 was adopted in 1995. Pursuant to New Hampshire RSA 40:13 any town, school district or cooperative school district that raises and appropriates funds at an annual meeting can adopt a process whereby all warrant articles are given their final vote by official ballot. Should the town of Bristol voters vote to adopt this approach it will make the annual decision making on budget and warrant a two session format:
• Session 1 — a public meeting to discuss and amend the proposed warrant, and then about a month later
• Session 2 — to vote on the warrant at the polls.
There are many people touting pros and cons to this change, but I believe that SB-2 is the answer for Bristol for the following reasons:
• SB-2 offers a way for more Bristol voters to take part in matters that affect the town
• On average, only about 100 or so Bristol voters, who include officials, employees and committee members, are attending town meeting.
• Voters have time between first Session Deliberative Meeting and second Session Voting Day to review warrant, research issues and prepare to vote.
• With traditional town meeting most people have intimated not having any idea of the warrant articles and information until the meeting and feeling pressured to vote one way or another by those proponents or opponents to an issue or article.
• Allows voters who are away to vote by absentee ballot.
• Many Bristol voters are away in winter and cannot participate in decisions because they cannot physically attend traditional town meeting.
• Polls being open typically from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. allows for more flexibility to voters to participate.
• Many Bristol voters are working, own businesses, have childcare issues or have other family obligations that keep them from attending a sometimes day long Saturday town meeting.
• Allows voters the privacy of the voting booth to exercise their vote.
• Many Bristol voters have expressed feeling intimidated by voice or hand vote process at Town Meeting and some have actually been accosted for positions taken at town meeting causing them to forgo participation.
It is time for more voices to be heard for the choices that need to be made in Bristol. Please vote "Yes" to SB-2 at the polls on March 14.
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