Electronic clickers could make Town Meeting voting run smoother, a report from the Moderator's Electronic Voting Committee indicates, but the question remains about whether Town Meeting will pay for it.
“As you’re all aware, the Town Meeting is really a stress between efficiency and the democratic process." Town Meeting Moderator Sandy Gadsby explained, "[electronic voting] is something that will improve the efficiency without in the least undermining the democratic process."
Gadsby explained that the system would cost $25,000 and is currently included in the Information Technology department budget. It is an appropriation which will be up for discussion during the warrant article.
"I can’t imagine any arguments against electronic voting, but we’ll certainly open the floor to debate on that," said Gadsby
He added that it may be an issue for Town Meeting Members alone to decide, but he feels it is part of a larger issue of keeping Brookline at the cutting edge.
The Committee report describes two possible electronic voting systems, a more basic and a more enhanced one. The enhanced system includes feedback for voters to inform them that their vote has been recorded, as well as options for security against hackers.
If the cost of the more expensive system is less than 50 percent more than the other system, the report recommends purchasing that more advanced system.
Gadsby is skeptical that hacking would be a concern for the annual meetings.
Said Gadsby, "This is pretty small-time stuff for the professional hacker. It's hard to believe there would be a lot of hackers out there trying to change the votes of our small town meeting."
Selectman Dick Benka also raised the issue of altered voting numbers, asking whether Town Meeting Members (TMMs) could leave their voting clicker with another TMM and have them vote incorrectly. The report includes a system for challenging the vote, if such an incident arises.
"I expect few if any challenges of that nature. I have a lot of faith in the integrity of our Town Meeting Members and don’t think those shenanigans are going to take place." Gadsby responded, "Certainly, a presentation of votes by Town Meeting Member [on the more enhanced system] allow those challenges to be made."
The question will go before Town Meeting,.