Historic RTM Vote to Rescind Previous Vote Fails; January Vote to Accept the $500,000 Grant from CTCL Stands

There were passionate voices during Monday’s RTM meeting where the body voted not to rescind the January 17 vote to accept a $500,000 grant from Center for Tech and Civic Life, or CTCL for short.

The vote was 118 not to rescind and 98 to rescind. Four people abstained.

The related vote on whether to accept a separate grant for $9,600 from CTCL for membership in the US Alliance for Election Excellence for two years resulted in a tie vote – 101 to 101 with 4 abstentions – and therefore failed.

The arguments started well before the January vote, and continued from that night until Monday night’s meeting.

In the weeks leading up to the March 13 meeting, dozens of RTM members and non-members took advantage of the all-230 RTM email address to voice their opinions.

One email, from RTC executive committee member Cheryl Resnick gave the gist of the opposition, when she said, “Outside influence of our election is not acceptable and there is no such thing as ‘free money;’ I am very suspicious as to the influence CTCL could have in our town’s election process if the grant money is taken.”

Greenwich resident Liz Tommasino referred to the grant as “blood money.”

A Zoom seminar titled “Future of Elections: Third Party Money,” featuring Jason Snead from the Honest Elections Project, which was hosted by Ed Lopez an Susan Schieffelin and promoted beyond Greenwich, was “Zoom bombed” with inappropriate graffiti and audio.

Last week, GFP’s photo of Greenwich registrars Mary Hegarty and Fred DeCaro, taken with State Rep Hector Arzeno at a poll worker appreciation event, was doctored by a website and published with the headline “Zuckerbucks Buys Greenwich Elections.”

RTM Testimony on Vote to Rescind

On Monday night RTM member Tina Volkwein testified, saying, “The Meridia system was not ready for prime time.”

“After some votes were not counted on January 17, the administrators concluded it was user error. The users reject that conclusion. In this he-said, she-said situation, the only remedy can be rescinding the vote which disenfranchised some of our colleagues.”

“I don’t see the harm in voting again, and alternatively, I think not allowing a redo will create a further divide in the RTM,” she said. “Disenfranchising our colleagues is not worth the harm to the RTM’s reputation. We need to respect our colleagues, be collegial and make sure all votes are accurately counted.”

Steve Meskers

State Rep Steve Meskers (D-150) said the ‘rancor and partisan nature of the arguments’ was not acceptable, and that during his 20 years on the RTM and 5 years as State Rep, there had been many votes he had been unhappy with, but accepted those decisions.

But, he said, “Questioning the decisions of the moderator lead us to a chaotic spot. We need to close the vote and move forward. We’ll have plenty of issues to argue over. We have to stop the partisan nature of the debate.”

Michael Spilo

Michael Spilo said a petition in favor of the motion to rescind had 455 signatures.

“I also want to address what is the nature of elections, and Ballotpedia says, a redo election, also known as a re-vote, a special election remedy, is the process of voiding an election result and holding a new election. The specific reasons for calling for a redo election including mistakes by the broken voting machines. This is the kind of standard thing that happens all the time.”

Specifically he addressed the issue of personal responsibility and user error.

“Imagine a room that has two switches: one turns on the lights, one turns on the alarm and sprinklers,” he said. “If the two switches are close together, you might expect that at some point the sprinklers will go off even though there was no fire. The designers of this room who put those two switches together and similar may blame the users, but this was a system design failure.”

Lisa Becker Edmundson said she had never addressed RTM, but was concerned that voting again would set a precedent.

“Greater voter error probably occurred during Covid, and using our previous paper method. Certainly when people are late or were in the bathroom, they missed a vote. Should we wait? If we didn’t didn’t have faith in our electronic voting system, we should have managed that issue before it became our accepted means of decision making.”

“We cannot cherry pick votes that do not go the way we like. If we rescind this vote, we will create chaos,” Edmundson said.

She added that, going forward, the RTM would have the opportunity to be involved in how the funds are spent.

Lucy von Brachel

Lucy von Brachel also argued against the motion to rescind.

“It doesn’t matter if the procedure was imperfect. It doesn’t matter if the process isn’t foolproof. If some believe it’s unfair that their intentions weren’t recorded,” von Brachel said. “It doesn’t matter if members raise concerns during the meeting if we can count just a few extra votes, just once. The January vote remains in order. As painful as it may be for many be for many, we have to let a vote that was in order stand to preserve the integrity of this institution, and the public trust.”

Lucia Jansen, chair of the RTM Budget Overview Committee, testified in favor of rescinding the vote.

She said her vote was not counted in January.

“I spent 15 years in technology. I attended the clicker training class,” she said. “I consider myself an early adopter of technology. I was enthusiastic with the Meridia voting system. However it is a brand new system.”

“Systems have idiosyncrasies. It is unconscionable that we had no parallel system before we had the rules in place,” she said.

Jansen said the night of the January vote, there were immediate objections and questions, and the town attorney was asked for a legal opinion.

“Nothing, nothing, nothing happened,” Jansen said. “That’s not the proper process. I urge you to please allow me, who spent hours and hours on this call item, to have my vote registered.”

Greenwich RTC Chair Beth MacGillivray also testified in favor of rescinding the January vote.

“Given the numerous voting issues and the poor implementation of the electronic voting system, votes were missed in January,” MacGillivray said. “Some transparency is still missing.”

“A voter cannot verify how they actually voted before finality is announced. With this new system, district leaders can no longer ensure their district members vote, were accounted for and tallied,” she said.

MacGillivray said that in January, the screen was illegible, haphazardly displaying users and in some cases multiple listings of same voters. She said the new system “gave homage to timing instead of the voters’ votes” and that she was still insecure about various fixes.

Kara Philbin listed several questions for the representative of Meridia.

“According to Meridia the success of their product is on the visual verification of the actual voter, correct? Your system is meant to work with a visual confirmation of the voter that their vote was yes, no or an abstention? Correct?”

“This is not a dialogue or debate,” Voulgaris said. “This is not a person who is required to respond to your questions…We are talking about the motion to rescind right now. We are going to move on to our vote.”

Duncan Burke

Duncan Burke attempted a point of order and asked that a representative from Meridia address the body. “I would like to have Meridia speak to this question.”

Moderator Alexis Voulgaris said a point of order was intended to address a rule being broken.

“We cannot compel someone to speak,” she said. “I have told you. He is not required nor compelled to speak.”

From there the body moved to vote on Item 8.

The vote was 98 yes on the motion to rescind and 118 no, with four people abstaining.

RTM moderator Alexis Voulgaris

Ms Voulgaris described the vote as a historic moment because the RTM had only used the motion to rescind twice previously, once in 1934 and once in 1940. One motion had passed and one failed.

She said regardless the outcome, “We’ll enter the annals of history with this vote.”

From there the body moved to Item 2, which took up the $9,600 grant from CTCL for membership US Alliance for Election Excellence for two years.

After about a dozen people testified, a motion to cut off debate passed 149 to 57.

The vote was a tie, an therefore failed.

Later during the meeting, in a discussion about a legal ruling, Tina Volkwein called the moderator a dictator, which provoked laughter, boo’s and calls for her removed.

On Tuesday morning, Greenwich Patriots e-blast described the vote as a sad day for election integrity in Greenwich.

“Unfortunately, after last night’s spectacle, the rancor and political divide among Greenwich RTM members is only likely to grow.  And why wouldn’t it?” the Patriots said. “Greenwich elections will be tarnished by the injection of Zuckbucks, and never considered to be truly ‘free and fair’ again, at least so long as the Registrars are being influenced by the ‘free lunch’ offered by CTCL.”

Later in the morning, Jane Weisbecker used the all-230 member RTM email to make a plea for decorum.

“Bedlam. Disrespect. Lack of knowledge about RTM rules and procedures. Beyond rude behavior. These things and many more are what I saw at last night’s RTM meeting. It needs to stop,” she wrote.

“I have been on the RTM for 17 years and have never before experienced the level of nonsense that took place at our last couple of meetings. How are we supposed to be taken seriously by the town when our guests (in last night’s case, 10 year old girl scouts) are better behaved than some RTM members? Since when has shouting at the moderator and speakers become ok? Earth to these bad actors: IT’S NOT OK.”

See also:

RTM Approval of $500K CTCL Grant in Jeopardy after Claims Votes Weren’t Counted Jan 18, 2023