KALB: The RTM Must Not Redo Votes. Here’s Why.

Submitted by Scott Kalb, RTM D7, Legislative and Rules Committee, Secretary

Is it just me, or is anyone else upset about the proposals to overturn the vote approving a grant for our registrars at Monday’s RTM meeting?  A group of legislators that opposed the grant, based on “concerns” that outside money could undermine confidence in our elections, are – wait for it – doing just what they said they are concerned about – undermining confidence in our elections.

As a member of the RTM Legislative and Rules Committee, my colleagues and I work with the Town Attorney on select proposals that come before the RTM. The comments below are my own opinion – I don’t claim to represent the committee – but I share these views to provide my perspective from a front row seat on the issue.

Based on allegations of technical and systemic failures in our electronic voting system by four individuals who filed sworn affidavits that their votes were not counted as intended (it used to be five, but one complainant withdrew after lying on his sworn affidavit), a group of RTM members is working overtime to get the results of that vote thrown out. It seems incredible that they are willing to undermine the integrity of our voting system in order to win, based on the argument that they are concerned about the integrity of our voting system.  What? 

The motions to rescind set a dangerous precedent for the RTM and here’s why they should be defeated in resounding fashion at the meeting on Monday March 13.

First of all, and most importantly, we don’t redo votes, not at the Federal level, not at the State level, and not at the Municipal level.  On January 6 when the mob stormed the Capitol and tried to stop our government from certifying the 2020 Presidential election, they failed.  When President Trump tried to get Republican Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find” 11,780 votes to change the outcome of the election in that state, he failed (criminal charges may be pending).  And here in our town, when a group tries to overturn an election using similar tactics, such as claiming technical glitches and system failures, we must ensure they fail too.

The RTM is a rules-based governing body and the rules on electronic voting are very clear – they prohibit changing voting outcomes based on claims of system error or after a vote has been declared final. Here is what the rules say:

Robert’s Rules of Order, 12th edition, Section 45:55 on electronic voting, states “changes of votes after the result has been announced by the chair on the allegation of machine error are not entertained.” 

RTM rules on electronic voting, adopted in December 2022, state “once the voting period expires as announced by the Moderator, all final votes cast will be tallied and recorded and cannot be changed. There is no provision for members to change their votes after the voting period has expired.”

Here is what Tom Byrne, the longest serving Moderator in the history of the RTM, had to say about not changing voting outcomes after the fact.

“Mr Byrne went on to explain that once a vote is announced, it is recorded and cannot be changed. ‘Any rule to the contrary would lead to chaos, with no vote total being reliable,’ he said” (from the Greenwich Free Press, Dec 17, 2021, after a recording error occurred at the December 2021 RTM meeting).

There is a reason why these rules are in place.  Can you imagine what would happen if every time a vote was finalized, someone from the losing side was empowered to step up and say: “that’s not fair, there was a glitch, let’s redo the vote?” It would be bedlam.  The rules are unmistakably clear.  We can’t change voting results.  It is not allowed. Period.

Unfortunately, the opponents of this grant are so determined to get their way, that they are trying to force the RTM to cancel the vote we held at the January meeting when the grant was approved.

Can they do that??  Not really. According to Robert’s Rules of Order, 12th edition, Section 35, a motion to rescind, is the same as a motion to amend, and is used to amend or correct legislation, not to overturn the results of a vote. Here is what the Rules say: “by motions to Rescind and to Amend something previously adopted – which are two forms of one incidental main motion governed by identical rules – the assembly can change an action.”

Section 35 of the Rules also gives examples of what “changing an action” means and makes clear that a motion to rescind is intended to amend, insert, or remove subsections of legislation that no longer apply, not to declare a vote null and void.

While it may be legal to make a motion to overturn a vote, it is certainly a distortion of the intention of the rules, and it has never been used in the history of our town for such a purpose. I haven’t heard of it being used for this purpose anywhere.

Can the voting process be improved? Certainly, the Moderator, the Moderator Pro Tem, the Office of the Town Attorney, the Office of the Town Clerk, our professional IT consultants and Meridia have been working hard to introduce improvements to our electronic voting process, including enhanced screens and more time for voting. However, it is important to understand that these improvements are not an admission of system failure but rather an effort to enhance our voter experience and allow more time for human errors to be corrected. Make no mistake, human error occurs all the time in voting, at every level of government, and no system can prevent voters from pushing the wrong button or voting too early or too late.

The RTM should soundly reject any motion to redo or throw out a vote.  It would set a terrible precedent and as former moderator Tom Byrne stated, it would lead to chaos, with no vote total being reliable, making a mockery of future RTM rulings.  We can’t nullify a vote because individuals on the losing side complain.  Can you imagine where such a path would lead us?

You can let RTM members know how you feel about throwing out and re-doing votes by emailing them at this link.