Lee Bowie: Amherst charter would empower voters

Thursday, February 22, 2018
Amherst charter to empower voters

Maybe in a community populated by more perfect voters, voters unlike me, our representative Town Meeting would work well.

For example, I am fortunate to live in a precinct in which elections for Town Meeting are often contested. So I at least have the opportunity through my vote to make my hopes and fears count for something.

Many of my fellow Amherst residents are in precincts with chronically uncontested elections and where whoever takes it upon themselves (or can be persuaded) to run, wins. Too bad for those voters.

But even in my contested precinct, I confess that I am not a perfect voter. It is not easy to unearth statements from Town Meeting candidates, and I confess that I don’t always make the effort. As a result, I usually have little idea what the candidates stand for and have to cast my vote based on name recognition.

But if, under the proposed new charter, there were a contested election with only two seats for my district (and three at-large seats), I know I would read candidate statements and cast an informed vote. So candidates would take positions on important issues and actually be elected as a result of the views they hold, not because their names are familiar. I count this as a major advance.

There are so many other advantages to the proposed structure, and I have space to mention one: preferential, or ranked-choice, balloting. This allows me to vote for a “fringe” candidate whom I nevertheless support, without being afraid that I will be wasting my vote. If my candidate is eliminated, my vote will automatically shift to my next-preferred candidate, and on up the line until my vote is eventually cast for whichever of the last two candidates I prefer.

The proposed new charter would empower Amherst voters. I hope others will join me in supporting the charter on March 27.

Lee Bowie