Since the election many people, both inside and outside Harvard, have asked me what the Harvard voting on the Devens issue means and what is next. I’d like to address those questions from my perspective on the Board of Selectman and as a person who spoke to a broad range of people in the town during my re-election campaign.
The Devens voting at annual town meeting and at the annual town election were constructed by the Board of Selectmen to be advisory and were not tied together in any form. Town officials are free to interpret each vote and to act on that interpretation. I will outline my interpretations below.
First, there is the issue of the weight of the town meeting vote compared to the town election vote. There were 1794 ballots cast in the town election (50 percent of the town’s voters) and only 388 votes cast on the issue at town meeting. Only about three percent of the total ballots received had no vote on either question. Statistically, the large election turnout can be viewed as representative of all voters and minimizes the non-response bias present in the town meeting vote. In my view the town election vote, with its broader choice of voting options and more widespread participation, clearly takes precedence.
Next, there is the issue of how to interpret the town ballot vote. There were four sensible voting positions: to take all of Devens back along the lines of the 1A scenario; to take the Barnum Road area back and create the town of Devens as per the 2B scenario proposal; to take back none of Devens and create a town, and; to reject all the options above based on insufficient information. I look at the voting in terms of preferences based on total ballots cast.
Only 660 voters (37 percent of the total ballots) were in favor of full reintegration of Devens into Harvard. That vote is a clear rejection of that scenario by a majority of the town’s voters and confirms the poll taken by the Devens Focus Group three years ago.
The proposal to take back the Barnum Road area and create the town of Devens received 918 votes (51 percent of the ballots cast). Because of the wide number of voting options available, this majority vote achieves a high level of significance.
From the difference in vote totals between YES on Question 4 and NO on Question 5 (158), or NO on Question 4 and YES on Question 5 (185), one can identify a pool of approximately 170 individuals (9 percent) who likely voted to reject both proposals. This group of voters either desired to take back none of Devens or to reject both options based on insufficient information. In my campaign I met many voters who did not want any part of Devens to be reintegrated into Harvard.
The preferences, in summary are:
Reintegrate all of Devens: 37 percent
Reintegrate only Barnum Road: 51 percent
Reintegrate none/need info: 9 percent
No opinion: 3 percent
In my view the voters expressed a clear preference to continue with the compromise proposal to return the Barnum Road area to Harvard while creating the town of Devens. I believe it is now incumbent on town officials to work cooperatively to achieve the best for Harvard within the framework of that proposal.
Harvard Board of Selectmen