DesChamps: Overturning Voting Results Brings Chaos to Order

Submitted by Matt DesChamps, Member of RTM D6, Views are my own

In the March 13 meeting of the Representative Town Meeting (RTM) members will be asked to cancel a prior vote. This would set a terrible precedent.

Ironically, the controversy began with a vote to improve voting in Greenwich. In January, a majority of the RTM voted “Yes” to accept a $500,000 grant awarded to our bi-partisan Registrars of Voters. The grant will help Greenwich provide modern and efficient voting processes, as we transition to early voting, and saves taxpayers money. Disappointed by the outcome, “No” voters have maneuvered to get a redo, by claiming the RTM’s new electronic voting system malfunctioned.

An investigation concluded that the system functioned properly, and any votes not cast were due to user error. User error is unfortunate and certain improvements will be implemented going forward to mitigate the risks, but such errors are not a valid basis to overturn an election. Revotes in federal, state or local elections are not permitted, as they would sow chaos and distrust. For the same reasons, revisiting this vote in the RTM is not acceptable, despite opposition from those who voted “No.”
Respecting the finality of a vote is a fundamental democratic principle.

The integrity of the RTM, like other democratic assemblies, is dependent on historical norms, charter, by-laws and rules of order. The RTM uses Robert’s Rules of Order (12th Edition) to minimize conflict and provide a framework for conducting its business efficiently and fairly. Robert’s Rules and the RTM’s own rules clearly state that votes, once completed, recorded and announced are final (Robert’s Rule of Order, 45:55 and RTM Rules, p. 9). This is a critical component of good governance and a hallmark of democracy. Rescinding votes after the tally is announced sets a terrible precedent that could result in any disgruntled member forcing the RTM to re-litigate any vote. Chaos is unleashed.

As a result of the looming rescission motion and the First Selectman’s refusal to sign the grant, the debate has continued to rage in the public domain, with certain groups spreading false and misleading information about the grant and the vote. They have brought in national figures from conservative-funded groups to mobilize our residents, and they have been lobbying to sway votes at the March meeting. This is a tactic that diverts attention from the key issue – cancelling a vote – and undermines the democratic process.

We don’t do do-overs in this country. We don’t replay the game after a tough call. User error is not a basis for canceling a vote. We follow rules to maintain order, decorum and respect for process. When a vote doesn’t go our way, we accept the results, lick our wounds and regroup to fight another day.

That’s what makes democracy work and America great.

Change is difficult, and the Moderator and team responsible for implementing the new voting system should be commended for their efforts to bring the RTM voting system into the 21st century.

Please urge your RTM representatives to vote against the motion to rescind, protect the RTM as an institution and uphold the long-established norms and traditions of our town.