LONDONDERRY — Voters will decide in March whether to break with tradition and move to ballot-style voting. If they opt for the change, it would take effect in 2012 and Town Meeting would be history in Londonderry.
The Charter Commission Monday voted 6-3 to place the question on the Town Meeting ballot in 2011.
Town attorney Barton Mayer was present for most of the meeting to answer questions from the commission and during the public hearing.
Mayer said if voters chose to go to ballot-style voting, the deliberative session could not enact a quorum requirement. He also said the final report of the Charter Commission "shall include the full text and explanation of the prosed new charter or charter revision."
The nine-member commission was formed in March and has held two public hearings, the second Monday.
A dozen residents voiced their opinions for two hours, equally for and against ballot-style voting.
"I have been attending Town Meetings since I was 10 years old," resident Dottie Grover said.
Grover grew up in Chester and said that she would sit with other children in the balcony of the meeting hall.
"We learned the ins and out of the process," she said. "This is where I fell in love with democracy."
Mary Wing Soares also said she was in favor of keeping Town Meeting.
She addressed Charter Commissioner Al Baldasaro's concern that absent veterans would not be able to come to the meeting Saturday.
"A deliberative session would not give vets an opportunity to give their opinion," Soares said. "If that's the reason you're thinking of changing, it's not a good one. I think we need to get more people to come to Town Meeting."
But, Baldasaro said, it was not just about veterans not attending Town Meeting.
"Vets not voting are an issue to me," he said. "But you also have people on vacation or at sports games, people sick in hospitals. Right now, 250 people are controlling what goes on in town versus 17,000 registered voters."
Commissioner Steve Young asked where the 15,000 registered voters were who don't show up at the polls.
"One of the reasons as a councilor I supported this is because people are so busy," Councilor Sean O'Keefe said. "My brother has been on active duty for 21 years now. At the end of the day, he wouldn't be able to vote on his taxes. I'm passionate about this change."
Commissioners Young, Kathy Wagner and Marty Bove voted against the decision to put the question to voters in March.
Young said Tuesday the whole Charter Commission process "was hijacked from the beginning."
"Al (Baldasaro) handed out a 'voter guide' during the polls in March," Young said. "Six of the nine he picked for commissioner got in. Those were the same six who voted yes Monday night. The three he did not pick were the no votes."
The commission is now directed to come up with a draft of its report by Aug. 26, with the final report due Oct. 26.
Bove, Young and Wagner have decided to write a minority report as well.
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