Town Meeting Electronic Voting

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW

Top Reasons Shrewsbury should use Electronic Voting at Town Meetings

Though Electronic Voting is not directly a sustainability issue, it is related.  Sustainability issues that affecting our health and environment are some of the most important issues facing our town.   And as the old saying goes:

“When you have your health, you have everything. When you do not have your health, nothing else matters at all.”

Not knowing how our elected officials are voting on these issues in town meeting, creates a gap between the public’s positions on the issues that affect their health and how their elected officials are representing those positions in town meeting.   Electronic voting is a straightforward step that can be taken to help close that gap by providing citizens the information they need in order to start having those important conversations with those elected to represent them.

Increased Public Confidence and Interest in Town Meeting

A properly implemented electronic voting system can deliver tangible benefits to Town Meeting, primarily in three ways: increasing public information about Town Meeting proceedings, streamlining voting and recording time, and ensuring an accurate vote. These benefits would decrease the time commitment needed to serve on Town Meeting, decrease the contention interpreting the outcome of the vote, and increase the accountability of Town Meeting members to the citizens they represent, which may in turn enhance the public’s confidence and interest in Town Meeting.

Increased Accountability to the Public

An important benefit of electronic voting to a representative town meeting is the opportunity to quickly record and publish how individual members voted. Currently, a member-by-member voting record is available only with a time-consuming standing vote, which is used in very few substantive votes. As a result, constituents rarely know how their elected representatives vote. An electronic voting system would allow Town Meeting to take and publish individually recorded votes with the required accuracy but in dramatically less time.

Public access to town-meeting-member voting records for more substantive votes would provide a better-rounded view of a Member’s record than is available with our current practice, where constituent awareness of their Members’ votes is often limited to the most controversial issues. This change may also encourage more competitive elections, as the Town’s voters will be able to easily determine where their representatives stand on a larger number of issues. To the Committee’s knowledge, all Massachusetts representative town meetings now using electronic voting routinely publish individual vote reports to the town website, and they report widespread acceptance of this practice by Town Meeting Members and by the community at large.

Improvements in Counted Votes

Using electronic voting in place of standing votes provides for a higher degree of accuracy than current practice. Electronic voting is quicker than a standing vote. Additionally, Town Meeting could use electronic voting to take more counted votes in place of voice voting without sacrificing significant meeting time, allowing for the Meeting Members to be confident that the Moderator’s ruling is accurate, hopefully lessening the contentiousness that can sometimes result from close votes.

Protection Against Unauthorized Voting

Because electronic voting systems employ uniquely identified handsets to enter votes, they greatly reduce the potential for inadvertent or intentional votes made by unauthorized individuals, such as non-members who are improperly inside the enclosure on a standing vote, or who contribute to voice votes from the gallery.

Cost

To get an idea of how much it would cost, we can look at other towns.

Amherst appropriated $26,000 to pay for the purchase of an electronic voting system for their Town Meeting.  Their committee estimated that the hardware will last at least 8 years.

Brookline estimated their total annual cost as follows:

  • Total annual cost: $5000 – $7000 per year
    • Total equipment cost (amortized over 5 years):  $3,000 – $5,000 per year
    • Total operating cost: $2000 per year

For a lot more reasons, check out these lists from great resources:

TOWN OF AMHERST
Amherst Town Meeting Electronic Voting Study Committee
Amherst Town Meeting Electronic Voting Study Committee Final Report, August 18, 2016
Amherst Town Meeting Archive (with Electronic Voting Results in PDF/Excel examples)
Amherst Electronic Voting By-law change

TOWN OF BROOKLINE
Brookline Electronic Voting Committee Final Report (March 19, 2012)

TOWN OF NATICK
NATICK TOWN MEETING ELECTRONIC VOTING STUDY COMMITTEE

E-voting Videos: A collection of electronic voting videos from selected Massachusetts Town Meetings


LOCAL VIDEOS


ELECTRONIC VOTING VIDEOS


LOCAL ELECTRONIC VOTING NEWS

01/14/19 – Is Wellesley Town Meeting ready for electronic voting?

05/03/18 – Shrewsbury resident seeks selectmen’s support for electronic voting study

10/19/16 – [Dartmouth] Town Meeting moves toward electronic voting

10/19/15 – Super Park passes after hour long debate at [Grafton] Town Meeting

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