TownUnderground - Londonderry, NH

Londonderry Town Meeting and Elections => 2011 Londonderry Town Election / Meeting => : GDouglas February 19, 2011, 08:29:56 AM



: LT - Uncharted Territory
: GDouglas February 19, 2011, 08:29:56 AM
Editorial from the Londonderry Times www.NutPub.net

Uncharted Territory
2/17/2011

In a classic example of "Who's on First," the Londonderry School District Deliberative Session Friday night raised plenty of questions that would be humorous if the subject - democracy - weren't so serious.

After some residents aroused unfounded fears that "special interest groups" - read "voters" - would wreak havoc on Londonderry's schools by their efforts to eliminate the 500-person quota at Deliberative, voters did indeed turn out in force.

Great, you say. After a decade of failing to meet the magic number, voters this year were able to actually make a motion to amend the budget.

Well, yes, kind of. But then again, no, not really.

The first attendance count was 442. Then 465. Just after 8:53 p.m., the magic number - 508 - was reached.

But when a motion was made to increase the budget, the number of voters who turned in their slips to be counted totaled 446.

Did people disappear? Go on a smoke break? Leave to make a phone call? Get bored and go home? Or perhaps, not favoring the proposed budget increase but fearing they would be outnumbered, just decide not to vote - and thus, eliminate the quorum.

Because, as the Moderator had explained, the magic 500 means 500 voters present and voting, not 500 voters who attended at some point that evening. And Friday was very likely the first time people have heard how the quorum works.

So when is a quorum really a quorum? And when is it not? This is truly uncharted territory.

Voters left home on a Friday night in numbers not previously seen, and it just wasn't enough. Maybe that "special interest group" fear should have been applied to achieving a quorum, rather than to what would happen if the quorum were abolished, as a current lawsuit seeks to do.

Deliberative Session attendance is, by nature, fluid. There's no mechanism for an official count, in contrast to what you have with electronic voting machines on Election Day. At Deliberative, people come and go. They may come early, arrive late, or stay for just a few minutes. In the many towns without quorums, they may choose - as is their right - to vote on one amendment and not to vote on others.

But back in Londonderry, the rule of numbers holds sway. So great, guys, you turned out and made the quorum. But too bad, guys, you really didn't make the quorum after all.

Friday night wasn't about the people being in control of their government at all. Once again, in the quorum-ruled Londonderry School Deliberative Session, government controlled the people. And when that happens, we all lose


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