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Prisoners pad Town Meeting numbers in some representative precincts, research group says

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It’s been called the purest form of democracy — the annual Massachusetts ritual of town meeting dating back to the 1630s — when neighbors get together to spend their community’s money and set its rules, arguing everything from whether to build a new school to how much to charge for trash disposal.

But as this spring’s town meeting season rolls in, a research group is questioning whether the institution is working as it should in communities that host prisons, including Billerica, Dedham, Framingham, Plymouth, and Walpole.

The Prison Policy Initiative in Easthampton says that voters in some precincts in those towns wield unfair power — with more town meeting members than they should have.

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