Voters have right to make changes

Our story this week on the Souhegan School District Deliberative Session mentioned that two people, who we think should know better, essentially said that the voters who bothered to attend the session had no business actually doing anything. Here is what the story said:

“Shannon Chandley and school board member Steve Coughlan said it would not be fair for the 100 or so voters at the meeting to take away the right of a much larger number of voters to decide the budget March 10.”

That is so incredibly wrong. The “100 or so voters at the meeting” had not only the absolute right to make changes to the warrant but, if they honestly believed that something was askew in a particular article, the duty as well.

This argument that the folks who bother to show up have no right to do anything because thousands didn’t bother to come is an ancient one that came up before Senate Bill 2 turned towns into “vote at the polls” districts. It used to come up at town and school district meetings, albeit somewhat differently, to wit:

“This meeting is packed with special interests (insert here either firefighters, teachers, police officers, town employees) who have a vested interest in seeing this article (insert either pass or fail.)”

That was a specious argument because, obviously, everyone in a community has a vested interest in every warrant article and just because someone is a teacher or firefighter doesn’t take away her or his right to vote on an article that affects his or her job. They came to the meeting; they did their civic duty. Thus, they get their right to vote.

Under SB2, it’s a bit different: The people who bothered to show up are doing their civic duty thus they get the right to amend. If voters who didn’t show up don’t like how an article was amended, well, tough. Next time, show up.

Chandley and Coughlan know this but they launched this specious argument for what they believe was a good reason: They didn’t think the budget warrant article should be amended. Well, fine: Vote against the amendment.

But never, never, never say that someone who uses his or her time to come to a town or school deliberative session has to leave her or his rights at the door.