Amherst has 16,569 active voters so 18% is 2,983
The venerable Amherst Select Board will place the $67 million Mega School on the ballot for the annual town election scheduled for March 28. This will make the 4th time it has been voted on by Town Meeting and The People.
Although, since it's a rare special "Referendum" election to overturn a Town Meeting action, it has to be decided in a "Special Town Election" separate from the annual town election. But it can still be held at the same time as the regular 3/28 election, so it will cost taxpayers "only" an extra $8,000 for poll workers and printing additional ballots.
In order for the Referendum to succeed a two-thirds super majority to overturn Town Meeting is required and the election must have a minimum 18% turnout. Over the past 30 years only three such Referendum votes have taken place and none of them have been successful overturning Town Meeting.
In fact even the requirement for an 18% turnout will be hard to meet as Amherst local elections over the past ten years have averaged only a 15% turnout.
Although a stand alone $2.5 million Override for the schools on May 1, 2007 attracted a 31.5% turnout and was defeated by a narrow margin. Interestingly the regular annual town election held four days earlier attracted a 21% turnout.
And in 2003 and 2005 the annual local elections garnered over a 30% turnout due to the controversy sparked by the Charter question to change our current Select Board/Town Meeting government to a Mayor/Council/Manager.
In 1998 the Parking Garage Referendum vote to overturn Town Meeting's hard won approval for the tiny $4 million Boltwood Parking Garage garnered a 22% turnout and failed by less than 1%.
At the time Town Attorney Alan Seewald had interpreted the law to say 18% of the voters had to vote to overturn in order for the question to count.
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As a result the pro-garage Town Meeting defenders did little campaigning, since getting 18% of the electorate in a local election to vote to overturn anything is all but impossible.
But the Mega School issue has generated plenty of passion from both camps, so plenty of private money will be spent over the next six weeks targeting voters. Good money after bad.