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|Pros and Cons|
|Written by Gillian Smith|
|Wednesday, 13 November 2013 14:10|
Electronic balloting may once again come before town meeting voters this coming March, as the committee appointed to research pros and cons of the system works to provide voters with as much information as possible.
Town Meeting voters in March approved Special Town Meeting Article 16, which proposed having the town meeting moderator appoint a nine-member committee to investigate the possibility of bringing electronic balloting to Duxbury. In Duxbury, residents vote by voice or by raising their hands holding a paper ticket that proves they are a registered voter if an exact count is needed.
Susan Kadar, acting chair of the electronic balloting committee, is one of nine members charged with investigating and researching electronic balloting for future town meetings. The group formed in the late spring and started by discussing the pros and cons of electronic balloting.
“We think it is greatly helpful in affording people the privacy of their vote and also helps very much with accuracy and speed of the count,” Kadar said. “Voice vote is one thing, but a standing count takes time and can be contested. So far we have found the system would provide us with a degree of accuracy and privacy no other means would provide.”
One of the issues with the current voting system at town meeting, Kadar said, is that with voice votes, which are required for a large number of articles, there is no way of controlling whether people who are not registered voters are speaking up.
The committee has conducted extensive research on the handheld electronic devices and has looked at towns in the area that are already using the devices or are planning on using them. The devices are handed out to voters when they check in at Town Meeting. Once their name is checked off, the device’s barcode is assigned to the voter.
Kadar said the committee has also explored the cons as- sociated with the electronic voting system. The system is costlier than what town meeting current costs the town, but Kadar said it was the committee’s opinion that the advantages outweigh the disadvantages.
“We voted on this early on in our discussion and we unanimously decided the program looked positive,” she said.
After initial discussions were held and research conducted, the committee identified 10 vendors and sent requests for information (RFI) that were cloned from other towns’ RFIs but were tailored to the needs of Duxbury. Six vendors have responded and the committee is now in the process of evaluating each vendor. The committee will discuss the results of the RFIs at their next meeting on Nov. 20.
“We realize it is a brand new concept for most voters, so our ultimate goal is to educate voters,” Kadar said. “Our meetings are open to the public and voters are welcome to attend.”
Kadar said as the committee takes a look at past town meetings, attendance varies based upon the length, popularity or controversial nature of articles. It is the view of the committee, she said, that the devices will help increase the speed and accuracy of the meetings. It is also possible, she said, to ask vendors to consider allowing voters to experience a demonstration with the devices in order to get a feel for how the system works.
“From the committee’s view point, that would be the best way to go,” she said. “We could use the system and then after that let town meeting vote and we would have an informed vote.”
The next electronic balloting committee meeting will be at the old Town Hall on Nov. 20 at 7 p.m.