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Andover Town Clerk Austin Simko estimates adding electronic voting could cut as much as an hour off each Annual and Special Town Meeting. That amounts to about a 20 percent decrease in the time Andover’s legislative body meets.

Annual Town Meeting will be asked next week to approve Article 13, which would allow electronic voting at Town Meeting, and Article 14, which would set aside $40,000 per year for the Town to lease the equipment. Adding electronic voting was among the recommendations the Andover Town Governance Committee made last year

Electronic voting was unanimously endorsed by the select board, but officials are concerned the measure could fail over the same privacy concerns that led to two previous defeats. Simko and study committee members Andy McBrien and David Floren met with Andover News Monday to discuss the proposed changes.

Previously on Andover News: What To Know About Electronic Voting

“I’m hopeful we’ve moved past the hesitation from the last time,” Floren said. “So much more is done electronically today.”

When Andover first began looking at the issue in 2017, 21 Massachusetts towns were using electronic voting at town meeting with the same system the Town plans to use. That number has grown to more than 70.

“The tech is maturing. The telling point to me is nobody has gone back” and dropped electronic voting, McBrien said. “There are no security issues anyone knows about. This technology is robust.”

Among the points the three men emphasized on Monday:

  • Electronic voting systems operate on a closed system and are not connected to the Internet, limiting hacking risks.
  • The systems are used by Congress and have anti-jamming technology.
  • Voting would be anonymous.

Under the proposed change, the moderator would decide when Town Meeting uses electronic voting. McBrien, who also sits on the finance committee, said that provision was included to allow for flexibility. “Some votes are procedural votes — it’s not even worth the 30 seconds to call for an electronic vote,” he said.

Town Meeting always has the option of overruling the moderator. “The basic principle allows for flexibility on the part of the moderator, as well as Town Meeting,” Simko said.

The $40,000 is a “conservative estimate” and would cover three nights of Annual Town Meeting and two Special Town Meetings in the fiscal year beginning July 1. Simko acknowledged that it is more expensive than the current system of voice and standing votes, but will increase confidence, integrity and efficiency.

The Town has a Q&A on the electronic voting.

Photo: Town of Andover/Facebook

More coverage of the 2023 Annual Town on Andover News.

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