Despite being rejected during a town vote more than two years ago, electronic tabulation devices have gained a recent resurgence of support among Westford officials. The use of these devices, also known as clicker voting, was tested during a town meeting in October 2019, when 450 of the hand-held devices were distributed for the town vote.
The proposal was nixed following that vote, which was conducted using those very machines. But Town Moderator Angela Harkness may be open to the idea of reintroducing a proposal to adopt the technology. “I am just in the investigation stage,” she explained. “And I don’t plan on proposing any change without community input.”
Several surrounding towns have already adopted the technology. In fact, more than 40 communities in Massachusetts now use the devices, which are smaller than a television remote control. That, according to Mark Fite, CEO of Option Technologies which manufactures and distributes the devices. “In the case of open meetings, voter privacy and fast accurate tabulation are the focus,” Fite said.
Fite cannot say specifically how many towns have implemented this technology, as there are several other companies in the mix but explains that towns like Wayland and Framingham have been constant users since implementing it more than a decade ago.
Harkness will continue to investigate if the system is safe and accurate but contends that in the end, the voters will choose. “I would like to do some research and bring that information to the community so that voters can decide if this is a path that Westford should follow.”
The pushback came mostly from residents who were concerned about the system’s security and cost. But that was back then, Harkness has no idea what to expect this time around. “I am approaching this with an open mind. I am not making any presumptions,” she said of her delve into discovery. If her research reveals that the process is not viable and effective, then that will be the substance of her announcement.
Still in very preliminary consideration, the adopting of this system depends on many factors. Harkness will review, update and check all the older data and compare it with today’s variables before she even introduces the topic for public discourse. Once all the steps of discovery have been taken, she hopes to announce a proposal or non-proposal at the June 11 Town Meeting.