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Council Adjust Wording Of Charter Ballot Question



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Council Adjust Wording Of Charter

Ballot Question

By Kendra Bobowick

Newtown’s Legislative Council reacted Wednesday evening, October 3, to changes to the charter revision ballot question requested by the secretary of the state’s office, debating whether alternative wording would make the question more or less clear to the voting public.

Prompted by the state’s rejection of the initial elaborate wording of the charter question, which explained proposed local budget voting procedures in the charter change, member Mary Ann Jacob rephrased the earlier version to a simple query: “Shall the proposed charter changes be accepted? Yes or No?”

Surprised by the wording suggested by the secretary of the state’s office, member Kathryn Fetchick said, “This has no specificity at all; you don’t even know what you’re voting on.”

Previous wording had included several things: ask voters to decide if the Newtown Charter should split binding operating budgets between the school district and the municipality; add nonbinding advisory questions to help inform deliberations in the event one or both sides of the split budget fails; and eliminate a rarely used provision that could move the local budget to a public town meeting after a second referendum failure.

In response to Ms Fetchick’s concerns, Council Chair Jeff Capeci explained, “The secretary of the state’s office rejected our [earlier] charter changes. Their concern was the way it was worded. They thought it was too complex and hard to understand.” The state secretary agreed that a vote on the proposed charter changes go forward, but also suggested the change in the form of the question, noting explanatory text can be done elsewhere besides on the ballot.

Mr Capeci said that information depended upon the explanatory text and how it is disseminated.

The council’s options were narrow. Before the council approved the wording change, Mr Capeci noted, “If we don’t pass [the revised] resolution, we won’t see changes.”

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