General Laws to Massachusetts Moderator Index
Chapter 39. Municipal Government
Except as otherwise provided by special law or a charter adopted or revised or amended under Sections two, three, or four of Article LXXXIX of the Amendments to the Constitution of the Commonwealth which may provide for a different time for the election of town officials and other matters to be determined by ballot, the annual meeting of each town shall be held in February, March, April or May; and other meetings may be held at such times as the selectmen may order or the charter or by-law prescribe; provided, however, that, notwithstanding the provisions of this section or of any other law, by-law, or charter to the contrary, a town, by the vote of its board of selectmen or town council may delay the annual town meeting; and provided, further, that such a delayed annual town meeting shall complete its business on or before June thirtieth. Town meetings shall be held within the geographic limits of the town unless a special law, charter or by-law provides otherwise; provided, however, that any meeting for the election by ballot of federal, state or other officers or the determination of other matters that are to be determined by ballot at an election shall be held within the geographic limits of the town. Meetings may be adjourned from time to time and meet and adjourn to any place authorized by law provided that officers shall be elected, and matters required by law to be elected or determined by ballot, shall be so elected or determined during the hours during which polls shall remain open as hereinafter provided. If the day set for a town meeting by by-law or otherwise falls on a legal holiday, such meetings shall be held on the day following. A town may by by-law designate the hour at which the annual town meeting shall be called and subject to section sixty-four of chapter fifty-four by vote or by-law designate the hours during which polls shall remain open in meetings for the election of officers and the determination of other matters that are required by law to be determined by ballot.
- Section 9A. Election of officers and other matters determined by ballot; meetings; time & place; warrants.
Except as otherwise provided by special law or a charter adopted or revised or amended under Sections two, three or four of Article LXXXIX of the Amendments to the Constitution of the Commonwealth, a town may provide by charter or by-law that the election of town officials and other matters to be determined by ballot shall take place in February, March, April or May before or after the annual meeting held for the transaction of other business, provided said annual meeting for the transaction of other business is also held or commences in February, March, April or May. The time and place of holding such election and vote and meeting for the transaction of other business may be stated in one warrant for the annual town meeting if called within thirty-five days of each other and such election and vote shall be deemed parts of the annual town meeting. If the election and other matters to be determined upon by ballot and the annual meeting for the transaction of other business are more than thirty-five days apart, separate warrants shall be used.
Every town meeting or town election, except as hereinafter provided, shall be called in pursuance of a warrant, under the hands of the selectmen, notice of which shall be given at least seven days before the annual meeting or an annual or special election and at least fourteen days before any special town meeting. The warrant shall be directed to the constables or to some other persons, who shall forthwith give notice of such meeting in the manner prescribed by the by-laws, or, if there are no by-laws, by a vote of the town, or in a manner approved by the attorney general. The warrant for all town meetings shall state the time and place of holding the meeting and the subjects to be acted upon thereat. The town meeting may be held in one or more places; provided, that if it is held in more than one place, the places are connected by means of a public address system and loud speakers so that the proceedings in all such places may be heard and participated in by all the voters present therein. Whenever the moderator determines that voters are being excluded from the town meeting because there is no room for them in the places provided or that voters in attendance are being deprived of the opportunity to participate therein for any reason whatsoever, he shall either, on his own motion recess the meeting for any period during the day of the meeting or, after consultation with the members of the board of selectmen then present, adjourn the same to another date, not later than fourteen days following the date of said meeting, when places and facilities sufficient to accommodate all voters attending and to enable them to participate therein shall be available. The selectmen shall insert in the warrant for the annual meeting all subjects the insertion of which shall be requested of them in writing by ten or more registered voters of the town and in the warrant for every special town meeting all subjects the insertion of which shall be requested of them in writing by one hundred registered voters or by ten per cent of the total number of registered voters of the town whichever number is the lesser. The selectmen shall call a special town meeting upon request in writing, of two hundred registered voters or of twenty per cent of the total number of registered voters of the town, whichever number is the lesser; such meeting to be held not later than forty-five days after the receipt of such request, and shall insert in the warrant therefor all subjects the insertion of which shall be requested by said petition. No action shall be valid unless the subject matter thereof is contained in the warrant. Two or more distinct town meetings for distinct purposes may be called by the same warrant.
If a majority of the selectmen or any less number shall vacate their offices, or if the full number shall fail to be elected or qualified, the selectmen in office may call a town meeting. If there are no remaining selectmen, the town clerk may call it; and, if there is no town clerk, a justice of the peace may call it in the manner prescribed in the following section.
If the selectmen unreasonably refuse to call a town meeting, a justice of the peace, upon written application of one hundred registered voters or of ten % of the total number of registered voters of the town, may call a meeting by a warrant under his hand, stating the subjects to be acted upon, directed to the constables of the town if there are any, otherwise to any of the persons applying therefor, directing them to summon the inhabitants
Towns may prescribe by by-law the number of voters necessary to constitute a quorum at town meetings; provided, that a number less than a quorum may from time to time adjourn the same. This section shall not apply to such parts of meetings as are devoted exclusively to the election of town officers.
The moderator shall preside and regulate the proceedings, decide all questions of order, and make public declaration of all votes, and may administer in open meeting the oath of office to any town officer chosen thereat. If a vote so declared is immediately questioned by seven or more voters, he shall verify it by polling the voters or by dividing the meeting unless the town has by a previous order or by by-law provided another method. If a two thirds, four fifths or nine tenths vote of a town meeting is required by statute, the count shall be taken, and the vote shall be recorded in the records by the clerk; provided, however, that a town may decide by by-law or vote not to take a count and record the vote if a two-thirds vote of a town meeting is required by statute; and provided, further, that if the vote is unanimous, a count need not be taken, and the clerk shall record the vote as unanimous.
A town may pass by-laws, subject to this section, for the regulation of the proceedings at town meetings. Such by-laws shall be approved and published in the manner prescribed by section thirty-two of chapter forty.
In any town having a representative town meeting form of government the town meeting members shall not use the secret ballot when voting in the exercise of the corporate powers of said town or on any motion unless two thirds of the town meeting members present and voting thereon vote that a secret ballot be used.
Every town whose valuation for the purpose of apportioning the state tax exceeds one million dollars shall, and any other town may, by by-law provide for the election or the appointment and duties of appropriation, advisory or finance committees, who shall consider any or all municipal questions for the purpose of making reports or recommendations to the town; and such by-laws may provide that committees so appointed or elected may continue in office for terms not exceeding three years from the date of appointment or election.
In every town having a committee appointed under authority of this section, such committee, or the selectmen if authorized by a by-law of the town, and, in any town not having such a committee, the selectmen, shall submit a budget at the annual town meeting.
No person shall address a town meeting without leave of the moderator, and all persons shall, at the request of the moderator, be silent. If a person, after warning from the moderator, persists in disorderly behavior, the moderator may order him to withdraw from the meeting, and, if he does not withdraw, may order a constable or any other person to remove him and confine him in some convenient place until the meeting is adjourned.
The moderator shall receive the vote of any person whose name is on the voting list or who presents a proper certificate from the registrars of voters.