Australian ballot for town elections is working in Athens

In 2020, the way Athens voted for town officials changed. Australian ballot has always been a part of our elections but not a part of electing our town officials. Since Town Meetings began, we have elected our town officials during town meeting from the floor. Covid changed that, and I believe it changed it for the better.

When attending Town Meeting you don't think about those who can't attend and whose voices can't be heard. It becomes a select group of people that influences the way a town is run, who holds office, and if the budget passes.

In the three years since we switched over to Australian ballot for town officials, our voter numbers have doubled. These voters have made it clear that even though they may not be able to attend Town Meeting they can at least let their voices be heard in determining who holds a position in town.

We received a petition this year to eliminate the Australian ballot for town officials and go back to voting them in from the floor. This became Article 10, which states: "Shall the Town of Athens discontinue use of the Australian ballot system to elect officers, and instead elect its town officers from the floor at all future annual and special town meetings [...]?"

I think we are better off as a community when the option is there for those who, for one reason or another, cannot attend Town Meeting but who would like to have a voice in how their town, their community runs. It may not seem like a big thing, but these people have, in a way, been discriminated against since they cannot make it to Town Meeting. It is easy enough to say they should make it when we don't know why they can't, and there are many reasons why someone can't make it to a Town Meeting. We should not be sitting in judgment of these people, but instead, we should be helping them participate in any way that is possible.

I think it says a lot when your voter numbers go up like ours have since we switched over to Australian ballot for our town officials. I understand it may make a small group of people unhappy because in years past they were, in some ways, able to sway the vote when it was done from the floor.

Granted these new voters can't vote on the articles, but just having a say in who holds a seat in town government means a lot to these once silent residents. I ask the voters of Athens to attend this year's Town Meeting to be held Monday March 4 at 6 p.m. at the Community Center to let their voices be heard and to vote a strong and unequivocal no to Article 10.

Sandi Capponcelli


This letter to the editor was submitted to The Commons.

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