A representative town meeting, also called "limited town meeting", is a form of municipal legislature particularly common in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Vermont, and permitted in Maine and New Hampshire.
Representative town meetings function largely the same as open town meetings, except that not all registered voters can participate or vote. The townspeople instead elect town meeting members by precinct to represent them and to vote on the issues for them, much like a US Representative votes on behalf of their constituents in Congress.
Representative town meetings (RTMs) vary from town to town, and can vary widely in terms of rules and bylaws. The town of Westport, Connecticut has non-partisan RTMs, where while a member may belong to a party, it may not be advertised as such, and the First Selectman may veto any legislation passed excepting for appropriations. Wethersfield, Connecticut, however, requires "minority representation" so that no one party can control the RTM. Groton, Connecticut, specifically allows for a valid meeting to take place with no less than half the body present, that the meeting must be open to the public, and that senior town officials such as the town clerk or Superintendent of Schools have all the same rights as members except for voting or raising motions. Greenwich, Connecticut, with a representative town meeting and a Select Board, is the largest town in Connecticut (61,171 population as of 2010 census) with a town meeting / Select Board style of government.
As of January 1, 2013, when Sanford re-incorporated as a city and eliminated its representative town meetings, no Maine cities or towns operate under a representative town meeting form of government. Open town meeting remains the most common form of local government, dominating in the 431 towns and 34 plantations, while council-manager dominates in the 23 cities.
Alfred Chandler of Brookline introduced the idea of limited or representative town government as early as 1897, but it was not adapted until 1915 when Brookline accepted an act of the Massachusetts legislature providing for "precinct voting, limited town meeting, town meeting members, a referendum, and an annual moderator in the Town of Brookline." Newport, Rhode Island, influenced by Chandler, had adopted a form or representative town meeting in 1906. Representative or "Limited" Town Meeting consists of Town Meeting members elected from election districts or precincts and Members-at-Large. Representative Town Meetings may be chosen by a town through a special act of the state legislature, by petitioning the General Court to enact special legislation which applies solely to that town, or by using the Home Rule Charter process.
NH RSA 49-D-3 III. provides for representative town meeting, though no town has adopted this form of government. The representative town meeting is similar to that of the town council form of government, which acts under a charter and is the legislative and governing board of the town, but has different requirements for their respective charters.
The representative town meeting follows the procedures of a regular town meeting, and has the authority to address all matters that can be legally addressed at the annual or a special town meeting. Matters that the law or charter states must be placed on the official ballot of the town, cannot be decided by the representative meeting. To have a representative town meeting, the town must approve a charter that includes the following:
Elected town officials, such as the board of selectmen, town clerk, and chairman of the town budget committee, are members-at-large.