Andover moved one step closer Monday to joining the more than 65 Massachusetts towns that have used electronic voting at town meeting.

The Andover Select Board accepted a recommendation from the Andover Town Governance Study Committee to allow electronic voting at annual and special town meeting. Town Meeting would need to approve two warrant articles, one changing the town’s bylaws and one approving funds to lease the devices, before electronic voting could be implemented. Under the bylaw, the town meeting moderator would be able to decide when electronic voting would be used durig the meeting.

The governance committee did preliminary research and estimated electronic voting would cost the town about $25,000 per year for a three-night town meeting and two special town meetings. The town would have the option of buying or leasing the devices.

More coverage on Andover News: Select Board Notebook

Finance committee member Andrew McBride, who sat on both the town governance study committee and the 2018 electronic voting study committee, said electronic voting would not only improve efficiency and integrity for each vote, but would also ensure voter privacy. Town meeting rejected a two similar proposals over security concerns, which McBride said the town governance committee investigated before making its recommendation.

“One of the underlying concerns of the town governance study was to make government more accessible to more people,” McBride said. “But the voting process at town meeting actually impedes openness…some voters actually stay away from town meeting because they don’t want to be seen to vote at all. Some voters abstain from votes — I’ve done it– ‘I’m not painting a target on my back for that matter’.”

If approved, voters would receive an encrypted electronic voting device that looks like a television remote control when they check into town meeting. The devices use the same technology used in electronic voting devices for Congress. Results would be posted immediately after the voting period closes.

“We will know which handset cast the vote, but we will not know which voter cast the vote,” McBride said. “That’s very important for confidentiality.”

Voters would still have to physically attend town meeting, but the governance committee said electronic voting improves efficiency and shortens the length of the meeting. Some voters told the committee they “stay away because town meeting takes too long,” McBride said

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