Evan R. Ross: Amherst charter would strengthen democracy

Saturday, February 17, 2018
Charter would make democracy stronger

With national attention focused on the state of our democracy, Amherst residents have an opportunity to strengthen our local democracy on March 27 by passing the proposed new charter.

The charter modernizes Amherst government by creating a year-round Town Council, bringing our town of 37,000 in line with our neighbors in Northampton and Holyoke, and makes elected officials more accountable and accessible to Amherst voters.

Right now the average Amherst voter likely can’t name all 24 of their elected Town Meeting members. And during a time when so many are feeling burned-out consistently calling Congress, the prospect of contacting 24 Town Meeting members to discuss local issues is both daunting and unreasonable.

The proposed council system would simplify this so that each voter knows their representatives and can easily contact them. It would allow for a more engaged citizenry, and make sure town representatives hear the voices of their constituents and are accountable to their voters.

The proposed charter would also move the town elections to November, in sync with the timing of other elections. This would increase voter turnout. Voter turnout in the 2017 town elections was 22 percent, and in some precincts turnout was as low as 8 percent. Moving the election to when voters are more accustomed to voting means people would be more likely to show up.

In making town representatives more accessible and accountable, and by increasing voter turnout in local elections, the town charter modernizes and strengthens Amherst democracy.

Evan R. Ross