Our Form of Government
When Dover was incorporated in 1836, the General Court granted a charter for a full Town Meeting form of government. This is still in existence today. Any registered voter is eligible to attend and to participate in both Annual and Special Town Meetings.
Our Annual Town Meeting usually begins in May and consists of two parts: the deliberative session and the town election.
The deliberative session of the Annual Town Meeting is held no later than the second Monday in May. A quorum of 175 registered voters is necessary to transact business at the town meeting. The meeting is then adjourned to a date no later than the first Monday in June for the Town Election, which is the last article of the Town Meeting Warrant.
The Town Election is held from 7 am to 8 pm. The primary purpose of the Town Election is to elect citizens for public office. In addition, voters at the Town Election may approve or disapprove certain spending decisions approved by the voters at the Annual Town Meeting.
Articles of the Warrant
At the deliberative session of Town Meeting, the articles of the Warrant are acted upon. The Warrant, which includes articles of all normal appropriations of the Town and any special articles requested by ten or more voters in writing, is prepared by the Selectmen and sent to every registered voter at least 14 days prior to the stated Town Meeting. In addition, each voter receives a report, known as the Blue Book, from the Warrant Committee prior to Town Meeting.
The Warrant Committee consists of nine members, none of whom shall hold another Town office, who are appointed by the Moderator for a three-year term without pay. It serves as an investigatory and advisory body for all articles included in the warrant and has jurisdiction over the Reserve Fund throughout the year.
The Moderator, under State law, is an elected official who "presides and regulates the proceedings, decides all questions of order, and makes public declaration of all questions of order, and makes public declaration of all votes." Customs unique to Town Meeting permit the Moderator to use his/her judgment in applying rules of parliamentary procedure except where state laws or town by-laws specifically regulate.
Any voter may address the Town Meeting after being recognized by the Moderator. Upon rising, he/she should say "Mr./Ms. Moderator" and state his/her name and address. He/she may wish to discuss the question at hand (always relating his/her remarks to the subject under discussion), to pose a question, to ask for information, or to make a motion. The Moderator can require a voter to present in writing any original motions or amendments that significantly change a motion.
The Town Clerk, who is also an elected official, makes a record of all motions and votes of the Town Meeting and the Town election. This record is published in the Town Report, published annually by the Town.
Voting is usually done by a voice vote, although a majority of the voters in attendance may request written ballots. If the Moderator’s decision on the voice vote is challenged, a standing vote is required. Generally the adoption or amendment of a bylaw requires only a majority vote, but a two-thirds vote is required for the adoption or change of a zoning bylaw as well as for certain bonding appropriations.
No vote shall be reconsidered at the same Town Meeting unless a motion is made within a half hour of the adoption of the vote or requested by two-thirds of the voters present and voting thereon.
Special Town Meeting
A Special Town Meeting may be called during the year by the Selectmen to consider a matter of urgency that has not been authorized by the Annual Town Meeting. If the Selectmen do not act in a situation of concern to the residents, a petition signed by 200 registered voters can also convene a Special Town Meeting.
Candidates for Local Office
Any interested citizen who is a registered voter may become a candidate for any office where there is a vacancy to be filled. Town elections are strictly non-partisan.