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Town of Westborough, Massachusetts
Press Release supplied by
For release 9/3/2013
Electronic voting to get a “test drive” at Westborough’s Fall Town Meeting
Voters at Westborough’s October 21 Fall Special Town Meeting will have a new option at their disposal. Electronic voting will be offered for the first time in the Town’s history. Upon checking in for the meeting, voters will receive a device similar to a TV remote control, although smaller and simpler to use. Utilizing this device, voters will be able to cast votes on each issue that comes before the meeting. Each vote will become in effect a secret ballot, and the time taken in the past for hand counts of close votes by teams of tellers will be saved.
After citizen interest in such a system surfaced last spring, a number of Westborough officials observed electronic voting at Wayland’s town meeting in May. Their enthusiastic reports prompted the Board of Selectmen to form a committee to look into electronic voting for Westborough, charging the group with arranging for a demonstration at the October 21 meeting, if possible at no cost. The committee issued a request for proposals which brought a responsive offer from Option Technologies International, a Florida company that provides these services to Wayland and other Massachusetts towns. OTI is providing this full-scale demonstration at no cost to the Town.
Voters will be given an opportunity, toward the end of the October 21 session, to discuss the experience, and express an opinion on the desirability of continuing to explore the option. If that expression is positive, OTI is prepared to repeat the demonstration, again gratis, at the March 15, 2014, annual town meeting. As part of the annual appropriations made at that spring meeting, the voters may have an option to allocate funds for continuing electronic voting in the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2014.
Will anyone be able to track how each user is voting?
No. The electronic voting system is set up to keep this information secure within the system during the votes. It will not be forwarded to the clerk or the moderator or anyone else while the meeting is in progress. The detailed voting history on each question is extinguished by the system once the number of yeas and nays has been reported to the clerk and the moderator and announced to the meeting, and the meeting has moved on to the next issue. The Clerk and her staff will be able to link specific voters to specific remotes, but only to assure that we get them all back.
Is there a way to check the validity of the electronically-recorded vote?
Yes. An audit of a particular vote can be taken by bringing a number of handsets forward to a checking station to verify that the vote registered on the handset agrees with the vote assigned to that handset within the system. This has to be done immediately after the vote is taken, because as noted above, the votes are erased from the system once we move on to the next issue.
How secure is the system?
The system is highly secure and is not connected to the Internet or WIFI access points. Votes are transmitted and confirmed from each device using a patented encrypted radio transmission protocol that involves radio control microchips that are proprietary and unique to the voting system. The system uses a variety of Frequency Hopping Spread Spectrum (FHSS) links that are extremely difficult to intercept, hack, or emulate. Option Technologies uses several layers of security to detect and impede any attempt to impact voting results.
I’d like to watch the town meeting on TV, and vote from home. Will that be possible?
No. Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 39, Section 10 makes it clear that the voters participating in a Massachusetts town meeting are presumed to be present in the hall, or in another hall connected with the first via a public address system. We have never accepted proxy votes or votes that were cast any other way than in person by voters present in the hall or halls being used for the meeting.
Who are the members of the committee that is overseeing this effort?
Ed Behn, Chair of the Advisory Finance Committee; Denny Drewry, Selectman; Joe Harrington, Moderator; Peter McLaughlin; Tom Shea; Mark Stockman, MIS/GIS Director; and Nancy Yendriga, Town Clerk.
Who do I contact for more information on this?
The lead contact is Nancy Yendriga, Town Clerk. (508-366-3020) She can provide contact information for other committee members if needed.