Amherst Select Board voted unanimously to call Mega School "Special Election" 3/28
The Amherst Select Board became pretty flustered on Monday night when discussing the $66.3 million Mega School vote coming up for the 4th time at the March 28th election, with Chair Alisa Brewer blurting out she was "beyond frustrated" with a murky response from Town Counsel, KP Law.
The SB has unanimously supported the Mega School the previous three times and probably know how remote the odds are of it passing only days before the drop dead deadline from the Mass School Building Authority.
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Everyone agrees that in order for the Town Meeting recent rejection to be overturned the voters must support the ballot question by a two thirds margin, because that was the hurdle it required from Town Meeting.
The murky part is does the question also require 18% of the voters to agree (2,983 votes) to overturn ... or just an 18% total turnout? A previous town attorney, Alan Seewald, thought it was the former.
And what if someone takes a Referendum ballot and feeds it into the scanner blank, does that count towards the turnout?
But let's look at this backwards and the interpretation of previous Town Attorney actually makes a lot more sense.
Pretend Town Meeting on January 30 had approved the Mega School by the necessary two thirds vote and Save Amherst's Small Schools went out and got the necessary 5% of 16,569 "active" voters (829) to force a Referendum Town Meeting's approval.
Now remember the Referendum simply puts the question as previously presented to Town Meeting before the voters with the same quantum of vote required for passage (two thirds) or FAILURE (one third).
Thus at the March 28th Referendum SASS would only need one-third of the voters to vote "NO" to the question of whether the town should finance a $66.3 million Mega School.
Therefor it would be pretty easy to overturn ANY decision of Representative Town Meeting that requires a two thirds vote of support, which all zoning articles and any borrowing require: Get 5% of the voters to sign the Referendum petition and then only a 33% plus one vote at the ballot box.
I can't imagine that's what the Founding Mothers had in mind.