Local Government and Politics, News

Voting buttons and shorter meetings: Lynnfield wants to modernize its Town Meeting

LYNNFIELD — The big takeaways from a recently tabulated town meeting survey are that voters want to see electronic voting and check-ins, but don’t want a change in the quorum for the meetings.

Nearly 1,300 residents responded to a survey mailed out by Town Clerk Trudy Reid along with the town’s census forms.

The survey is part of the effort by the Town Meeting Study Committee, formed last year with the goal of looking at ways to get more residents to town meeting and make it run more efficiently.

“The biggest takeaways from the survey are that people want electronic voting and check-ins and time limits on presentations, questions, and comments,” said Jack Adelson, chairman of the study committee. “They also want earlier start times and earlier finish times. The most overwhelming vote in the whole survey is that there be no change in the quorum numbers.”

Lynnfield town meeting needs a quorum of 175 voters to conduct business.

The electronic voting and check-in was implemented on a trial basis during last year’s fall town meeting. At the end of the night, voters were polled and an overwhelming number said they supported electronic voting.

Adelson said the study committee is not making any further recommendations for the April 30 town meeting in other than continuing with the electronic voting and check-in.

“We need more time to work through things, but we have a great foundation with this survey and report,” said Adelson.

Other information tabulated from the survey shows that 74 percent of respondents hear about town meetings from their local newspapers, and that the biggest factors keeping residents from attending meetings are work and the length of the meetings.

In addition to the survey, Adelson said the committee members studied town meetings from several other towns and found that some of the measures implemented in those towns include reducing the quorum after the meeting starts, providing childcare, limiting the time for presentations and comments, and not starting any new articles after 10:30 p.m.

“We’ve already seen positive change at town meeting already,” said selectmen Chairman Christopher Barrett. “I’m fine deferring any further recommendations to the October town meeting, there is a lot of information here.”

Tuesday night, selectmen closed the warrant for the town meeting on Monday, April 30. Articles on the warrant include the $54.8 million town budget and several articles related to zoning changes for the proposed 154-unit senior housing project at the Sagamore Spring golf course and the Wills Brook housing project also proposed for Main Street.

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