Conway officials weigh in on new electronic voting system for Town Meetings

  • Town Moderator Jimmy Recore explains the town’s new electronic voting system at Saturday’s Annual Town Meeting at Conway Grammar School. Reflecting, Recore said there were a “few growing pains,” but he believes the new system made the meeting move more smoothly than in the past. STAFF PHOTO/CHRIS LARABEE

Staff Writer
Published: 6/9/2021 3:39:00 PM

CONWAY — Residents were asked to voice their approval in a new way at Saturday’s Annual Town Meeting through the use of a new electronic voting system that has largely received positive feedback.

Instead of holding up colored cards or participating in a voice vote, voters were instructed to press “yes” or “no” on the electronic clicker they received after signing in at the Town Meeting, held at Conway Grammar School.

Town Clerk Laurie Lucier said she had heard about the idea by speaking to other town clerks and decided on using the system after doing some research.

“It’s something a lot of towns in the state use,” she said.

Town Moderator Jimmy Recore said there were a “few growing pains,” but the new system made the meeting move more smoothly than in the past.

“I thought it went great,” he said. “It goes so easily.”

There were slight delays as motions to move discussions and questions had to be manually typed into the voting system, which prompted some residents to ask for a voice vote when deciding to move a question.

“We needed to figure out a few things, like when a voice vote would work quicker,” Recore said. “Within a few articles it was great.”

The clickers only record the last button pressed, which allowed voters to change their minds for a few seconds after voting while also constantly refreshing the vote counts on the screen. Recore said the system also automatically calculated two-thirds and four-fifths proportions needed to pass articles, which saved calculation time.

Recore said town officials weren’t sure how the system would be received by residents, but he hasn’t heard negative feedback yet.

“(Feedback) was much more positive than I thought. You know how people like change,” Recore said. “We had nothing to lose and I’ll tell you it was the way to go.”

Interim Town Administrator Ross Perry feels the new system sped up the meeting.

“I thought it expedited the votes and avoided the need to recount,” Perry said. “And an added advantage, we had a dozen people or so in the overflow room … it allowed us to track the people in the hallway.”

Perry said there was no risk in trying the system because the town was granted money through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

“When you can buy something without using tax money, that’s a win-win for Conway and the people,” he said.

Perry said all feedback he has heard has been positive and the cost of the clickers could be “close to nothing,” if the town continues to use the system at future meetings.

Planning Board member Mary McClintock said she had “mixed feelings” about the new system, and receiving more information ahead of time would have been helpful.

“It felt a little complicated,” she said. “It would have been great to have an explanation ahead of time. … I had never heard about it before.”

Still, McClintock said she liked the privacy the system provided because people’s votes wouldn’t be influenced by the people around them.

“I like the anonymity because it allows people to vote how you really feel,” McClintock said. “It’s like when we go into a ballot box.”

If the wrinkles are ironed out, McClintock said she would support using the system again, but she did raise a concern about the possibility of software issues.

“It definitely added time to the meeting,” she said. “We’re also trusting these machines are counting our votes accurately.”

Chris Larabee can be reached at clarabee@recorder.com or at 413-930-4081.




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