Selectmen discuss potential electronic voting for future town meetings
By Chris Kopacko, Contributing Writer
Westborough – The Board of Selectmen unanimously decided to create an electronic voting subcommittee during its April 9 meeting, in an effort to learn more about the possibility of having such a system in place as soon as Town Meeting in October.
Selectmen George Barrette and Denny Drewry said during the meeting that they had visited the town of Wayland during one of its town meetings earlier in the week, in order to view how an electronic form of voting operates. They also said that Advisory Finance Committee Chairman Ed Behn and Town Clerk Nancy Yendriga visited a separate Wayland Town Meeting as electronic voting spectators.
Barrette spoke largely in support of a check-in process he described as “smooth as silk” to his fellow selectmen and meeting attendees.
“Each voting member gets a small remote control. When you check in, everybody has a small barcode next to their name and they match it to your remote,” Barrette said.
He also noted that in two years of electronic voting, Wayland has lost only one of their voting remotes.
“I like it. I think it’s something we should explore,” he said. “People are comfortable with it … it really changes the whole tone of the meeting.”
Drewry added that voting privacy was a benefit to the electronic voting style.
“This isn’t the 1800’s, where everybody knew everybody,” he said. “I think we’re at a point where [we can give] people the privilege just like we do when we vote for the governor or president.”
He also mentioned that the electronic voting seemed to speed up the voting process, as well as create a “less contentious” atmosphere during the meeting.
Barrette did mention one potential drawback to implementing a tech-savvy democratic process.
“Like everything else, the big thing is the cost,” he noted.
While specific numbers were not discussed, the costs associated with the process included either purchasing or leasing of the voting equipment, as well as hiring personnel to install and operate the equipment every year.
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