Open town meeting

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Open town meeting, Huntington, Vermont

An open town meeting is a form of town meeting in which all registered voters of a town may vote (as opposed to having elected town councilmen). This form of government is typical of smaller municipalities in the New England region of the United States.

In Massachusetts, for example, generally the least populous towns have open town meeting form of government. Under Amendment LXXXIX to the Massachusetts Constitution, through a town charter revision process, no town with fewer than 6,000 residents may adopt representative town meeting form of government; towns with 6,000 or more residents may optionally adopt the representative town meeting form.

The board of selectmen call the town meeting into existence by issuing the warrant, which is the list of items—known as articles—to be voted on, with descriptions of each article. The moderator officiates the meeting by reading each article, explaining it, and making sure the rules of parliamentary procedure are followed, interprets voice votes, and counts other votes. The finance committee makes recommendations on articles dealing with money, and often drafts the proposed budget. The town clerk serves as the clerk of the meeting by recording its results. Town counsel makes legal recommendations on all articles of the warrant, to ensure town meeting is acting lawfully. All registered voters are free to attend and vote on any and all articles in the open town meeting.

Open town meetings function largely the same as a representative town meeting, except that in an open town meeting all the registered voters of the town may vote on questions at hand.

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