The Recorder - My turn: unite to defeat question 1

If you had told me six months ago that I would be on the same side on a political issue, let alone working on a voting issue for that iss...



If you had told me six months ago that I would be on the same side on a political issue, let alone working on a voting issue for that issue with Al Norman, I would have said you were crazy. However, here we are. I feel obligated to work across the aisle to help preserve our current and fair referendum process.

On November 2, question 1 asks you to modify the referendum process to, in the words of the Charter Review Committee, “make it more difficult”. There are many towns comparable to Greenfield that have lower thresholds, a few examples include Amherst, Longmeadow and Southbridge.

The facts on February 1 in Greenfield:

■ There are 12,563 registered voters.

■ In the 2019 elections, 5,557 registered voters voted.

■ The charter requires the signatures of 10% of voters in the last election (556 signatures, 10% of 5,557); but not less than 2.5% of the total number of voters (314 signatures, 2.5% of 12,563) to enter a referendum question on the ballot.

■ The minimum number of signatures for a referendum petition is 556.

■ Signatures on referendum petitions do not need to be only those who voted in previous elections; all registered voters are eligible to sign.

■ To appear on the ballot as a candidate for general councilor or mayor (city-wide), you only need 100 signatures.

■ All referendums are decided by a majority of the votes of the city’s voters.

Unfortunately, there is a reality of voter turnout. It is historically and consistently low. I wish it hadn’t, but it is.

This is exactly why the threshold for referendums is based on the number of voters voting and not on the total number of registered voters; it allows voters who show up to dictate the required threshold.

This is akin to your standard deduction when filing income tax. The IRS only taxes your adjusted gross income and not your full gross income, because even they are smart enough to know that you never keep 100% of what you earn, and it would be unfair to tax that part.

In fact, binding the necessary signatures to all registered voters is a punitive change. Those who come to vote are empowered under the current process.

If this charter change is adopted, referendums will require 7% of all 12,563 registered voters (893 signatures) compared to the current requirement of 10% of 5,557 voting voters (556 signatures). In an apples to apples comparison, this change is not a 3% decrease as described by the Charter Review Panel. Quite an astonishing increase of 128.5% from 7% to 16%! (893 equals 16% of voting voters and 7% of registered voters)

I sat for 20 years on the city council, at the time I voted on thousands of measures. Of these, only two were subsequently submitted to a referendum. Both used the current signature requirements method, and of the two, one vote was upheld and the other canceled. Both cases were decided by a majority vote, and not by a small group of citizens. This tells me that the process is working exactly as expected.

The Charter Review Committee is a small group of appointed citizens. It is suggested that this change will “protect your vote” when in fact this change only serves to protect the decisions of elected council members, simultaneously weakening the right of citizens to “control” those votes.

In addition, some members of the Charter Review Committee suggest that referendums are used to “hinder” the process. If this were true, there would have been well over two referendums in the past 20 years and thousands of council votes.

I hope that this change was not intended to discourage and deprive citizens of their rights who seek to participate in the local political process. However, this is exactly the effect it will have in the future.

I was so convinced that Greenfield would never be a place to try to pass the types of legislation seen in the country seeking to make it more difficult to participate in the voting process, unfortunately this suggested change shook that confidence.

As question 1 is written it can be confusing which is understandable. I certainly don’t blame you if you feel like this, in which case voting no doesn’t change anything! A vote against is a safe vote and preserves the language of our charter which is fair and equitable as it is. Our referendum language is not broken. We don’t need to fix it

Red or Blue, Conservative or Liberal, let’s all unite by voting No on November 2 to defeat Question 1.

Brickett Allis, a former city councilor and mayoral candidate in the last election, lives in Greenfield.



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Newsrust - US Top News: The Recorder - My turn: unite to defeat question 1
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