Lauridsen: It Seems Some of Our Elected Reps Were Disenfranchised

Submitted by Gail Lauridsen

The events of Tuesday, January 17 caused me to be deeply disappointed in our town. I attended the RTM meeting via Zoom and listened to compelling and lively debate regarding a gift of $500,000 to our Registrars of Voters.

Tuesday was the second time a Meridia digital voting system would be used. While not a maiden voyage, it nevertheless landed firmly on the rocks. At home I took screenshots of the barely-legible tally board before it quickly flashed away. The vote favored the grant by a slim margin; 104-101. Upon zooming in I was surprised to see that Lucia Jansen, who had spoken in opposition, had not cast a vote. I later learned she was one of seven representatives whose votes were not counted. Others claimed their votes were not attributed correctly. It seems some of our elected reps were disenfranchised.

Technology is to be embraced – when it makes life better. In the old days (last year) every RTM Rep in attendance had their vote counted and recorded correctly. How civilized. I am not suggesting we go backward, but I am suggesting the new technology should be at least as accurate as the former method, and should have been better tested. Certainly, a backup system should be in place during its introduction.

Meridia recommends closing voting when 100% voting is achieved (as is done by the U.S. Congress), rather than the one-minute countdown method used on Tuesday. Furthermore, the tally screen must be visible and legible for a reasonable length of time. The concept of intent should NEVER be irrelevant in a collegial body. If it is, then we are headed down a slippery slope of divisiveness and controversy. For the good of us all please put these changes in place before the next RTM vote. We must revisit Tuesday’s vote or people will question: Why use a process technicality to hold fast to a questionable outcome?

The bottom line is; we don’t know if the majority of our representatives – and by extension our town – are in favor of a pivotal decision. Personally, I would like to know how all the members intended to vote. I should think everyone would want to act according to the will of the people because that’s how we respect our neighbors. I am grateful to First Selectman Fred Camillo for delaying the signing of this agreement which gives the RTM time to get it right.

Members who were present thought they had cast their votes, and later learned their votes were not counted. Moderator Alexis Voulgaris was immediately informed about the disenfranchisement, but rushed to close the vote anyway. She then stated on Thursday that the tally was final. Wow. Are we to believe Alexis thought Lucia Jansen, Chair of the BOC, who spoke eloquently and at length against the gift, intended to not vote? Why would Moderator Voulgaris support the result of a flawed process over a true, fair, democratic process?  If you voted YES to the early voting referendum on the 2022 election ballot, I assume it was because you believe in the right of every citizen to have a vote. Are you thrilled with this tenuous victory? Where’s the respect? Where’s the integrity? Where’s the fairness? I saw that Glen A. Canner (D12) has written a legal gotcha – something about an appeal not being filed in time, therefore the vote must stand. Just stop. This voting system was never imagined when those bylaws were written.  Let’s not disrespect people and then say it’s okay because of a legal technicality.

We are hearing from a vocal faction who seem to revel in the creation of controversy, lack of trust and cynicism. This will only hurt our town. Knowing the vote might be wrong means people will always wonder if it’s a big lie. I am disappointed in some letters which imply we should just move on, as though this precedent-setting event is somehow insignificant. That attitude is disrespectful to every member of the RTM. They volunteer hours in meetings. They study, ponder, debate and speak publicly on a multitude of issues; all so they can represent their districts with an educated vote. The very least we can do is to give them the courtesy of that vote.  By denying their votes, we are denying all the townspeople they represent. The fact is: members of our RTM, and by extension their districts, have been silenced. This is a clear breakdown of DEMOCRACY which can only lead to increased divisiveness.

It would be so easy to poll the disenfranchised members, add their votes to the tally and be done with it. Or better yet, take a new vote, let the chips fall where they may, and proudly present the actual result with the integrity it deserves. That would be good for Greenwich.