By Melanie Petrucci, Senior Community Reporter
Shrewsbury – Shrewsbury resident Bryan Moss appeared before the Board of Selectmen at their April 24 meeting seeking their support for his citizen-petitioned Warrant Article 15 that will appear on the Monday, May 21 Annual Town Meeting warrant.
The article seeks the creation of a study committee to “consider the feasibility and the cost of implementing a system for electronic voting at town meetings and make recommendations about the hardware and other things.”
It would consist of eight individuals, including the town clerk, town moderator, chief information officer, a member appointed by the Board of Selectmen and one by the Town Manager as well as three Town Meeting members appointed by the moderator.
The primary benefit of electronic voting is to increase accountability to the public quickly and accurately by recording and publishing results.
“Constituents rarely know how their Town Meeting member voted,” Moss said.
He cited last year’s pipeline vote as an example of when this system would have been beneficial. That vote was doubted and it went to standing vote. An electronic system would have made that vote (as well as similar situations) more efficient and accurate and remove any doubt resulting from a close audible vote.
“We don’t want Town Meeting members going home worrying about the vote based on a voice vote,” he stated.
He cited that Amherst, Arlington, Belmont, Billerica, Brookline, Acton and Wayland are currently using electronic voting at their town meetings.
The voting device would be assigned to each member and handed out at town meetings. The system will record a yes, no or abstention. Results are displayed on a screen.
A basic system that would accommodate the size of Shrewsbury would cost approximately $15,000 with a more advanced system that confirms each member’s vote about $25,000. The average yearly system’s operating cost would be an additional $2,000.
Selectman Moira Miller asked about the timeline for a proposal to be presented by the committee. Moss responded that a proposal would be brought back at the next Annual Town Meeting.
“I don’t have a problem with the study and I think it’s a good idea to study it, but I’m not clear what the problem with Town Meeting is now when we take a standing vote?” asked Selectman Maurice DePalo.
Moss reiterated the accountability and the accuracy aspects of electronic voting.
The board thanked Moss for his presentation.