Hopkinton has an Open Town Meeting form of government and is governed by its Town Charter and bylaws. An open Town Meeting means that all of the town’s voters may vote on all matters. (Some towns have a representative Town Meeting instead, and cities have a City Council instead.) Each town has a different way of running its Town Meeting, depending on its bylaws or charter. The Citizen’s Guide to Town Meetings is available on the state website.
Who, What, When and Where?
Who Can Vote?
All residents who are registered voters may vote at Town Meeting, but they must be present in person during the meeting to vote. There is no absentee voting for Town Meeting. Please note that if you are new to town or newly eligible to vote (i.e. recently turned 18 or recently became a U.S. citizen) you must register to vote at least twenty days before any Town Meeting, Town or State election or the Presidential Primary in order to vote. You can register online, by mail or in person at the Town Clerk’s office.
What Do We Vote On?
Town Meeting decides three major things:
- It sets the salaries for the elected officials.
- It votes to appropriate money to run the town.
- It votes on the town’s local statutes, which are called by-laws.
The list of articles to be voted is called the Warrant and it is published on the Town website prior to town meeting.
When is Town Meeting?
Per the bylaws, Hopkinton’s Annual Town Meeting begins on the first Monday in May at 7:00 PM. Special Town Meetings are sometimes called by the Board of Selectmen if unexpected or time-sensitive issues come up at other times of the year. A petition of 200 voters may also call a Special Town Meeting. By tradition the meeting ends at 11:00 PM and continues on consecutive evenings from 7:00-11:00 PM until all articles are voted. Annual Town Meeting typically lasts 2-3 nights.
Where is Town Meeting?
By tradition Town Meeting is held in the Middle School Auditorium (88 Hayden Rowe St), but occasionally it has been held in the High School Athletic Center if a larger crowd is expected. The meeting location will be specified in the Warrant.
Where can I get more Information?
eHop facilitates a “Know Your Vote” Spotlight Forum on Town Meeting every year, usually the week before Town Meeting. This is your chance to ask questions and get the answers you need from town officials before Town Meeting. You can also subscribe to our “eHop Updates” emails to receive detailed Town Meeting information in your inbox, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.
Hopkinton Town Meeting 101
You do not need to bring anything to Town Meeting. However, many people find that bringing a notebook and pen or pencil is helpful to make notes during the discussions. No food or drink is allowed in the room. There is a drinking fountain outside the auditorium. Many people also find that something to occupy one’s hands is helpful. If you are a knitter, for example, bring a small project. There are plenty of padded stationary folding auditorium style chairs, which are reasonably comfortable. But remember you’ll be there for a long time, so wear comfortable clothes.
Town Meeting begins at 7:00 PM, typically in the Middle School Auditorium. Allow time to park and walk to the building. As you enter the building head directly to the sign-in tables. To actually vote in the auditorium, you must be a Hopkinton resident registered to vote and you must sign in at the voter table. Your name will be checked off and you’ll be given a small piece of paper marked “Voter Pass.” Hold on to this slip of paper; you will need it when it is time for the votes to be counted. There will be a table of handouts and fact sheets regarding all the proposed articles to be voted on from the town boards and committees. There is some terrific information here that may answer many of your questions. The information will also be displayed on the auditorium screen above the stage during the meeting. Listening devices for the hearing impaired are available, please ask when you check in.
You do not have to be present for the entire town meeting to vote, though the more that participate in whole, the more balanced the democratic process. A quorum of 1% of the registered voters in town is needed for the transaction of any business. There is no set time to check in. The meeting will be broadcast live via HCAM TV (Comcast 8/Verizon 30/Streaming live at www.hcam.tv), but you MUST be present to vote. You just need to check in prior to the vote, whenever you arrive. You only have to check in once, and you can come and go from the auditorium as you please. You can text (with phone switched to silent mode) from within the auditorium, although there is minimal cell coverage. Step outside to make a phone call.
The Board of Selectmen presides over the meeting, which is facilitated by the Town Moderator and recorded by the Town Clerk. The format of the meeting itself follows procedures set out in the Town Bylaws (similar to Robert’s Rules of Order). Articles are presented, motions made, discussions ensue. Sometimes it can be a little confusing if an amendment comes up, so keep your ears open. Listen carefully — and you’ll learn a lot.
The committee or board presenting each article may make a brief presentation before each article. The Town Moderator, Thomas Garabedian, will facilitate a question and answer period for registered residents. If you choose to ask a question or comment on an article, step up to one of the microphones located in the auditorium aisles. Wait for the moderator, to recognize you, then state your name and address, and keep your comments brief, civil, and to the point. The comment, question and answer period will end when either #1 the moderator sees that no one else is waiting at the microphone to speak or #2 a voter comes to the microphone, is recognized by the moderator, and says “I move the question” or “I call the question.” The motion to end debate must then be seconded and then adopted by a ⅔ vote.
As for the actual voting, most votes start as a voice vote. The moderator asks all in favor and all opposed. If the voice vote sounds close, it will go to a standing count. The moderator will ask all in favor to stand up. Now is the time to get out that piece of paper you received when you checked-in. Hold out your Voter Pass and remain standing until the counters for your section have indicated that your vote has been recorded.
Although you can leave at any time, we recommend you do NOT leave until the meeting is officially adjourned. Someone may ask for a recount, and if a large group has already left, the outcome could be different, especially if the original vote was close. If you have any other questions about Town Meeting, please ask.