LETTER: RTM Voting Process is Not Flawed

Submitted by Paul Curtis, Greenwich

In reading the various news articles and letters to the editor concerning the voting on Item 10 of the January 17th RTM, I come away with a few observations. The first, presented as a Letter to the Editor,
is patently in opposition to both the Rules of the RTM and Robert’s Rules of Order which govern how voting is accomplished:

“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.”

No, actually, this would not be “good for Greenwich” as it contradicts every rule that the RTM adheres to concerning voting. Don’t like the result? Let’s let them vote anyway. This is patently undemocratic.

The RTM rules state: “Members may change their votes during the voting period announced by the Moderator. However, once the voting period expires as announced by the Moderator, all final votes cast will be tallied and recorded and cannot be changed.” In addition, Robert’s Rules specifically allows “if other members arrive who wish to vote, a majority vote is required to reopen the polls.” (Robert’s Rules of Order, 19th Edition, §45) Counteracting these rules in order to placate those who do not like the result would be chaos at best.

The writer also stated: “Are we to believe [RTM Moderator] Alexis [Voulgaris] thought Lucia Jansen, Chair of the BOC [Budget Overview Committee], who spoke eloquently and at length against the gift,
intended to not vote?” That is not for the author to decide: the decision to vote or not is only held by the member of the RTM and no one else. Perhaps speaking with the RTM member, rather than disparaging the RTM Moderator, would have been a better course of action.

Lastly, the letter’s author asks, “Why would Moderator Voulgaris support the result of a flawed process over a true, fair, democratic process?”

The process is not flawed, it followed the precise rules as they were adopted by the RTM at the December, 2022 meeting and Robert’s Rules of Order. The moderator acted absolutely correctly in accordance with these rules. This is the fair and democratic process that the RTM itself has chosen and enacted. If the author doesn’t like the process, become a member of the RTM, and propose the changes they believe should be in place.

My second observation is one of the RTM rule changes that shouldn’t have been enacted. The RTM rules state: “except that after the voting period has expired, in the event of a vote in which the Moderator’s vote will affect the result, the Moderator may (but is not obliged to) cast a vote, if the Moderator has not already cast a vote during the voting period.” This specific portion of the rule on RTM voting does, actually, disenfranchise the other 229 members of the RTM. The ability of the moderator to vote after the results are known is an undemocratic privilege accorded to the one, single member of the RTM. Keeping in mind that the moderator can vote on any item, there is no reason to exempt this one specific vote after the results are known. Prior moderators, and historical precedence, show the moderators not voting on items in order to maintain impartiality, as the moderator conducts the meeting and the voting. But again, the moderator is a regular member of the RTM, and can, if they so wish, vote on any item on the agenda. Allowing a vote after the results are known would not be a fair vote to the other members of the RTM.

Third, one suggestion from the voting system vendor, Meridia, should be concerning. They suggested making a vote “required” by those voting and present. I wholly disagree with this suggestion, as it removes the RTM member’s choice whether to vote or not. Yes, the member could abstain, but that is not the same as not casting a vote at all. This should be the RTM member’s choice.

And lastly, I would suggest that the voting period be extended from one minute to two minutes, at a minimum. With the votes cast both in person and remotely, a slightly longer voting period would not affect the speed with which the meeting is conducted, but allow the members to a little more time.

Some further research, and perhaps testing, should be undertaken for the display of who has voted, and the immediate display of each individual member’s vote. While the results of all votes cast, and by whom, is required by the Freedom of Information Act, those results are not required immediately during the course of the meeting. Had this particular item been earlier on the call of the meeting, the actions of some members would have invariably disrupted the meeting and the items following it on the agenda.

As I read the articles about the electronic voting for the RTM, one of the major rationales was to remove the delays that vote tallying was causing. This is an excellent reason, but there is another much more important one: the ability of all members of the RTM to cast their votes, as they choose, without interference, without pressure, and without undue influence by other members of the RTM.

This is by far the most important reason to keep, and improve, the electronic voting system that has been installed for the RTM.