The Westford town meeting will be taking a vote in June to reach a consensus on the use of new wireless vote tabulators to record the votes of town meeting attendees.
This idea was introduced to many communities during the COVID-19 pandemic, when a need for remote voting was more necessary than ever.
After thorough research on other towns across the state that use the system, Town Moderator Angela Harkness decided that it would be a good option for counting votes at Westford town meetings.
“The idea of electronic voting was brought up in Oct. 2019, but people were not comfortable with it,” Harkness said. “Ever since I became town moderator, I noticed that counting votes was very time-consuming and inefficient, as we would typically spend anywhere from ten minutes to an hour counting votes at town meetings.”
Harkness explained that there were already over 60 towns across the state using this type of system before she began to look into using it in Westford, and when she contacted those towns to ask them how the vote tabulators were received, she said that the responses were overwhelmingly positive.
“They all said that vote tabulators make the voting process more efficient, accurate, and reliable, and that they protect the voter’s privacy as well,” Harkness said. “One of the main reasons people don’t want to attend town meetings is because of the length.”
This prompted Harkness, along with Access to Town Meeting Committee members Tom Barry and Steve Edwards, as well as Westford’s IT Director Mike Wells, to research several different wireless voting companies before they settled on Meridia, who sent them the demo model that will be showcased during the town meeting.
The new system will use wireless remote controls that display a “YES”, “NO” and “ABSTENTION” button, which the voters can select anonymously. The votes will then be recorded electronically and the totals will then be displayed on a prompter.
Harkness plans on demonstrating the voting system during several public meetings to the Westford community, in hope of familiarizing voters with how the system works so that they are more comfortable using it during the town meetings.
“There is no need for skepticism of this system, as it is not connected to the internet or wifi and is very safe and secure,” Harkness said. “It is actually better at protecting the voter’s privacy because the votes are anonymous and the practically of hacking into the system is virtually impossible.”
At the end of every town meeting the clickers must be returned, and if they are not they are taken out of service from the system to prevent any accidental or fraudulent votes.
“It may take some time at first,” Harkness said. “But I think once people have their concerns addressed and they get used to using the system, they will become very comfortable and satisfied with it.”