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Montague voters: Vive la status quo

Most like hand counting ballots, eschew machines

  • From left, Millers Falls residents Chasidy Kaanehe and Tami James at The Shady Glen counter Thursday.

    From left, Millers Falls residents Chasidy Kaanehe and Tami James at The Shady Glen counter Thursday.

  • Kathryn Webber of Turners Falls at The Shady Glen restaurant Thursday

    Kathryn Webber of Turners Falls at The Shady Glen restaurant Thursday

  • From left, Millers Falls residents Chasidy Kaanehe and Tami James at The Shady Glen counter Thursday.
  • Kathryn Webber of Turners Falls at The Shady Glen restaurant Thursday

MONTAGUE — The second largest town in Franklin County, Montague continues to count ballots in local and national elections by hand, as it has done since its inception.

The upshot of the slower process is that the results of local elections, or Montague’s piece of the puzzle in statewide or national elections, are not generally published until two days after the election.

For those wishing to know the results immediately, they are posted in the Town Hall the following morning, and Town Clerk Debra Bourbeau said she routinely receives calls the next day from people eager for the results.

A few steps from the Town Hall, an unscientific sampling of lunch customers at Avenue A eatery The Shady Glen turned up mainly support for the status quo.

Husband and wife John and Florence Jutras of Montague view hand counting as more secure.

“I like hand counting, I do, because I think there’s less ways of cheating,” John Jutras said.

Computers are too easily tampered with and will do what they’re told, he said.

“Hopefully, if you get honest people in there hand counting, it’s going to be somewhere near correct,” he said, and the question of speed is secondary.

“The whole idea of voting is to get it right,” he said.

Florence Jutras said she feels about the same.

At the lunch counter, John Longe, a former Montague voter — he believes he is now registered in Greenfield — saw the question as a financial one.

“I’d say I don’t really care,” Longe said. “If it’s cost-effective to the town.”

Town Clerk Debra Bourbeau estimates the cost of the six electronic vote tabulators that would be required for a switch at $36,000, while the cost of hand-counting in the latest election amounted to $6,200, an approximately six-election payoff.

“It’s hard to say where the town is financially right now, so if that initial funding is going to affect other resources I’d take that into consideration,” Longe said.

Kathryn Webber of Turners Falls also pointed to the cost and said the wait didn’t bother her.

“It doesn’t bother me. I think it might be just too financially expensive to add the machines,” Webber said, adding that she has friends who help with the counting and feels they do a good job.

Tami James and Chasidy Kaanehe, both of Millers Falls, also had no objection.

James said she likes the old school system and doesn’t mind the wait.

Kaanehe, a recent transplant from Hawaii, said she voted in Montague for the first time this year but has never used an electronic system and so has no basis for comparison.

Elizabeth Hanley of Turners Falls said she does not vote regularly but is more comfortable with the current system.

“Of course, it does take a long time without the machines,” Hanley said. “But what if you press the wrong button?”

Hanley said the wait for results doesn’t bother her and the hand counting gives the people doing it a chance to earn a little extra money at election time.

If the town is going to spend money, however, Hanley said she would prefer it do so on voting machines than on the old Strathmore Paper Mill, which the town owns, has spent many thousands to maintain and is trying to find ways to redevelop.

You can reach Chris Curtis at:
ccurtis@recorder.com
or 413-772-0261, ext. 257

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