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Town Meeting tie vote: No 'failure' here

A tie in a race for Town Meeting? The rare event occurred during the town election on Saturday, April 10, when two veteran meeting members in Precinct 14 ended up with the same number of votes – 148.

Adam PachterThen Adam Pachter, at right, turned the out-of-the-ordinary to the unexpected: He graciously left behind his 18 years of meeting experience, making Alan Jones the likely occupant of the seat.

Pachter joked about the matter on his blog, offering to duel Jones with pistols at dawn.

Before he knew the legal maze about resolving a Town Meeting tie, he wrote, "I would happily stand aside before the coin flip that I thought would break the tie and thereby let him take the seat uncontested."

But as it turns out, state law had something more convoluted than a coin flip in mind.

Town Clerk Juli Brazile and Town Meeting Moderator John Leone checked with the state Election Board and found that a tie vote is considered a "failed election"? That means a vacancy that Precinct 14's other members vote to fill.

"Personally, I think this is undemocratic and encourage our state legislators to change it," Pachter wrote on his blog. "The election did not 'fail,'" and describing it that way is "not respecting the will of the voters."

In response, Pachter tells YourArlington, he has asked Rep. Sean Garballey (D-Arlington) to look into it and that the legislator has referred the matter to the state committee with jurisdiction over this area.

Jones, who is Pachter's neighbor and whose wife, Elisabeth, also represent Precinct 14, says procedure to resolve the matter is more of an appointment than a vote.

The clerk's office email to Precinct 14 members says:

"The tie was not broken by any hand-counted ballots, so that constitutes a failure to elect. Which means we have a vacancy to be filled in the normal way by a vote of the other 11 members." This is a slightly unusual circumstance, so John Leone has proposed that if the person chosen is either Adam or Alan that they be appointed for a three-year term since they have run for election in the normal fashion."

As state election law says: "Filling a vacancy in spelled out in MGL 43A, Section 9: The choice to fill any vacancy shall be by ballot, and a majority of the votes cast shall be required for a choice ...."

These are government's wheels grinding along. Better to read Pachter's whole blog entry, which is part travelogue and part Arlington political odyssey.

Read all the way to the end, including the comment, and see Jones's generous praise and wishes his competitor, who is a screen writer, success should Hollywood call.

Adam Pachter: "Know When to Walk Away: A Patriotic Interlude"


This viewpoint was published Saturday, April 17, 2021.

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