Electronic voting to come to Town Meeting

Oct 14, 2019

Electronic voting will be coming to Wareham for the first time at the upcoming Fall Town Meeting, scheduled for October 28.

Town Moderator Claire Smith said that while officials have been discussing electronic voting for several years, the town didn’t have the funding to make it a reality. This meeting will be a free trial from the company, Turning Technologies, to allow voters to try out the technology and see whether it is something the town wants to commit to using.

“It’s a good presentation for the voters to get a feel for it, and whether they want to fund it,” Smith said.

When voters arrive and check in, they will be given one of the small devices to use during the meeting. The devices are on a lanyard to allow voters to have their hands free to easily review their warrants, and, perhaps more importantly, make it harder to drop the device, which could easily skitter down the rows of seats in the auditorium.

Smith explained that the PowerPoint traditionally used during town meetings will be integrated with the company’s software. Articles will be discussed as usual, and when it is time for a vote, attendees will be asked to press 1 for “yes” or 2 for “no.” There will be a set period of time in which people can cast their vote, and the screen will show a countdown when there are 20 seconds left. Votes will appear on the screen, eliminating the need for voice votes or hand counts.

“There’s no question what the vote is,” said Smith.

All the devices will be tested by the company the day before the meeting, and representatives will be on hand to answer questions or help out if a device doesn’t seem to be working.

Smith pointed out that the devices will also give people privacy when voting, which wasn’t possible with the old voice or hand vote system.

Smith hopes most people will show up around 6:30 p.m. for the 7 p.m. meeting, which will allow time for people to be given the devices and told how to use them. Showing up early will make it more likely that the meeting will start on time. She also noted that it is important for people not to play with the devices by pushing random buttons, which can screw up the frequency so the vote from that device might not be counted. Voters will also have to remember to return the device at the end of the meeting, because the town will be charged for missing units.