Correction: Town Meeting Absentee Vote Prohibition is State Law, Not Town Bylaw


To the Editor,

We write to correct an error in Jon Keefe’s letter published in last week’s Cricket.  He stated that “we cannot vote in absentia due to the town’s bylaws.”  Mr. Keefe is mistaken.  It is state law – not the town’s bylaw – that requires residents to attend town meeting in person in order to vote.

Town meetings are governed by Chapter 39 of the Massachusetts General Laws.  The statute requires residents to be present to hear the debate and exercise their right to vote.  Unlike at elections, absentee ballots are not permitted.

As a practical matter, absentee ballots could not be effective at town meeting.  In an election, the candidates and any referendum questions are known well in advance.  At a town meeting, on the other hand, no one can predict with certainty the motions or amendments that may be proposed on town meeting floor.  It would be impossible to anticipate the questions to be decided in preparing an absentee ballot.  Moreover, residents report that hearing the discussion may change their minds.

While we understand the frustration of residents whose travel plans or other circumstances may prevent their attending, the town has no choice but to follow the mandate of state law.

Sincerely yours,

Alan Wilson

MBTS Town Moderator

Dianne K. Bucco

MBTS Town Clerk

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