Hear ye! Hear ye!

The town of Hinesburg would like for all of its voting citizens to know that on Dec. 7 it’s going to hold a vote on how the town will vote in the future.

The vote will be by Australian, or secret, ballot about whether the town should continue to vote by Australian ballot on all town issues.

The selectboard unanimously decided Nov. 3 to hold a special election to decide the issue.

December is the town’s last chance to hold this vote under Act 162, a law passed in 2020 to allow towns that normally vote by voice vote at town meeting on certain articles — like the budget — to vote by Australian ballot to minimize the spread of COVID during the worst of the pandemic.

Act 162 sunsets on Jan. 1. In the future towns could still move to an Australian ballot but would have to do so from the floor of town meeting.

Officials have raised the issue because so few people attend town meeting. Town clerk Missy Ross has said before the pandemic 160-170 people showed up for town meeting.

Town manager Todd Odit suggested that if the town wants to completely eliminate voice voting there should be two questions on the December ballot: Do voters want to switch to Australian ballot to vote for the budget, and do voters want Australian ballot for public questions.

Important issues decided by voice vote in the past included the switch to a town manager form of government and the decision to start an ambulance service.

Hinesburg already votes for town officers by Australian ballot, Odit said.

“Just to clarify, tonight, we’re not voting on whether voters use the Australian ballot or not. We’re voting on whether to let the voters make that decision,” said board chair Merrily Lovell.

Board member Maggie Gordon said she thought it was important to give voters the opportunity to make the decision.

“We’ve already had a really robust discussion, and I think it’s going to get even more robust,” Gordon said.

Hinesburg will hold an informational meeting about the issue at 7 p.m. on Nov. 30 at town hall.

Town Meeting Day with voice voting from the floor “is a unique New England thing. You don’t get that anywhere else, so it would be a shame to lose it,” board member Phil Pouech said. “I can go either way. I can argue really strongly one way or the other. I hate to lose tradition, but at the same time I’m like, this isn’t my decision. This is the voters’ decision.”

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