Open Town Meeting Form of Government
Marblehead operates under an open Town Meeting form of government. With an open Town Meeting, all registered voters of the Town are eligible to participate as opposed to a representative Town Meeting where only elected representatives may participate.
Residents who attend Town Meeting, which convenes annually on the first Monday in May and continues on successive nights until all business is concluded, approve department budgets, purchases of equipment, the addition of Town personnel, changes to the Town's bylaws, the purchase and disposal of property and bond issues for large purchases or projects.
The agenda for Town Meeting is known as the "warrant" and the individual issues to be discussed are referred to as "articles."
Special Town Meetings
Special Town Meetings may be convened at any time during the year, usually to fund emergency monetary requests or to approve contracts with municipal employees.
Private citizens or groups may call for a Special Town Meeting by collecting the signatures of 200 registered voters and presenting their petition to the Board of Selectmen.
To attend Town Meeting, residents must be registered to vote at least twenty days before the meeting (ten days for a Special Town Meeting). Voter registration information is available on the Town Clerk's Elections & Voting page.
Non-registered residents and visitors can observe the proceedings by obtaining a visitor's pass and being seated in a non-voter section.
The Town Meeting warrant (agenda) is issued by the Board of Selectmen and lists all of the articles (issues) to be acted upon by the Town Meeting. Articles may be sponsored by the selectmen, town departments or by any citizen who has obtained the signatures of ten registered voters for the Annual Town Meeting or one hundred signatures for a Special Town Meeting. Articles for inclusion in the warrant must be presented to the Board of Selectmen at least sixty days prior to Town Meeting. The warrant is then posted at ten prominent locations throughout the Town for thirty days before the Town Meeting.
The warrant is also printed in the Report of the Finance Committee, which is available prior to the Town Meeting in print form at several public locations, as well as on the Town's website, and at the Town Meeting in print form.
Prior to Town Meeting, the Finance Committee holds a public hearing to provide an opportunity for town officials and citizen petitioners to discuss their articles that impact the Town financially.
The Town Moderator, who is elected annually, presides over Town Meeting. The Moderator reads the article to be considered then the voters discuss or act upon the article. The sponsor of the article may then speak. A voter may debate the question by standing to address the Moderator, identifying himself or herself and confining his or her remarks to the specific issue under consideration.
Voting is usually done by a show of hands and most articles are passed by a simple majority. State law requires a two-thirds vote for bond issues, the acquisition or sale of land and amendments to zoning bylaws and a four-fifths vote is required to authorize payment of bills from a previous year. Prior to taking a hand vote, nine or more voters may request a written vote with unsigned ballots.
A person who voted on the prevailing side of an article may propose, on the same night as the original vote, a reconsideration of the vote. A two-thirds vote is required for an article to be reconsidered. If, on the same night of the original vote, a voter gives the Moderator a notice of intention to reconsider the article on the following evening, reconsideration would also require a two-thirds vote. If no notice is given on the evening of the original vote, a nine-tenths vote is required to approve reconsideration on the following evening.
Motions may also be made from the floor to "place on the table" (postpone) a vote until later that evening or to another evening of the same Town Meeting, to commit the article to further study by a committee, to amend an article or to postpone an article indefinitely. These motions must be in writing and presented to the Moderator.