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Thread: Town Beach, Electronic voting and governing together

  1. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Perlman View Post
    These are more unlikely scenarios, which are easy to concoct.
    On what basis do you characterize these scenarios unlikely? Do you have evidence that employees and their supervisors/employers are unlikely to both reside in Wayland? If so, please share it.

    Since members of the School Board are Wayland residents who are often present at Town Meeting, every school district employee or service provider who resides in Wayland would count in a census of those at risk of intimidation in any of its forms.

  2. #17
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    Oh, please, not the timeworn lawyers' ploy of demanding evidence to refute a baseless speculation? Since Dave concocted the scenarios in the first place, any evidentiary burden is upon him to support his speculations. So let Dave first produce evidence as to how many of his colorful hypotheticals have actually existed at the current Town Meeting, and what effect they had on individual votes.

  3. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Perlman View Post
    Oh, please, not the timeworn lawyers' ploy of demanding evidence to refute a baseless speculation? Since Dave concocted the scenarios in the first place, any evidentiary burden is upon him to support his speculations. So let Dave first produce evidence as to how many of his colorful hypotheticals have actually existed at the current Town Meeting, and what effect they had on individual votes.
    Concoct? Ploy?

    I said that an employee could consider it risky to publicly vote in opposition to his or her boss, and provided an example to illustrate how this might happen. To address your unsubstantiated claim that such scenarios are unlikely, I pointed out that any Wayland citizen working for or providing services to the School Department might find themselves in this situation.

    Review the WayCam tapes from the Town Meeting committee's public hearings and you'll see Wayland citizens describing their aversion to public voting.

  4. #19
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    If the aversion is based on social discomfort, as opposed to intimidation regarding one's job or livelihood, then I consider it an insufficient reason to do away with public voting at Town Meeting. Beyond that, I have nothing to add to my prior post, which called for factual evidence, not speculative scenarios.

  5. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Perlman View Post
    If the aversion is based on social discomfort, as opposed to intimidation regarding one's job or livelihood, then I consider it an insufficient reason to do away with public voting at Town Meeting. Beyond that, I have nothing to add to my prior post, which called for factual evidence, not speculative scenarios.
    The scenarios posted are not speculative. It's an objective fact that there are citizens of Wayland who are employed by other citizens of Wayland. Any of these employees might feel constrained by public voting.

  6. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Bernstein View Post
    The scenarios posted are not speculative. It's an objective fact that there are citizens of Wayland who are employed by other citizens of Wayland. Any of these employees might feel constrained by public voting.
    That observation misses the point. How many such people attended Town Meeting (0,50?), and has there been any effect on their voting (no, yes, sometimes?)? That's the kind of evidence that would be needed, not speculative worst-case scenarios. And there is no such evidence.
    I can't say this any more clearly, so I'm finished with this thread. My body is still on Rome time, and I'm going to sleep. If you need to have the last word, have at it.

  7. #22
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    Default Even though this is a moot point....

    I'd like to throw in my 2cents:

    Steve, I’m not sure why you’re differentiating between social discomfort and the possibility of losing your job over people seeing how you vote.

    For many people, especially those in their 20’s and 30’s, their social network is extremely important. Peer pressure is a very real consideration and the possibility of alienating their friends or being ostracized from a group is just more than they are willing to risk. So they may not come to Town Meeting at all, may opt to abstain if they do come, or worse, may vote the opposite of how they’d like, just to avoid the fallout from expressing their true feelings in front of people who feel very differently. If you can honestly say you don’t know anyone like this, fine. But many people do.
    Whether you think they should behave so superficially or not is not relevant. They do.
    And since our goal is to get more people to the polls, it’s important to accept that fact.

    As to people employed in the town, think about this:
    Your plumber
    Your landscaper
    Your electrician
    Your doctor
    Your dentist
    Your lawyer
    Your chiropracter
    Your barista
    Your children’s teacher
    Your stock broker
    Your financial adviser
    The janitor in the building you work in

    If you don’t think you’d be uncomfortable with any of these people seeing you vote a certain way, try to look at it from their point of view. It could be uncomfortable for them to have you see them vote a certain way.
    Maybe they’ve just given you a bid for $10,000 to re-plumb your house.
    Maybe they’re hoping to get you as a customer for their landscaping business.
    Maybe they’re afraid of losing you as a client or as a patient.

    What Dave suggests is not at all far-fetched. Just think about all of the people you see at any given town meeting and then think about your relationship with them. I can say from personal experience that I have seen people I know from most of the professions listed above and considering how contentious things get in this town, any one of them would have a legitimate concern about losing work as a result of being seen by certain people and certain groups to be voting the "wrong" way.
    John Flaherty

    Any views expressed are NOT mine alone.
    Wayland Transparency - Facts Without Spin
    http://www.waylandtransparency.com/

  8. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Perlman View Post
    That observation misses the point. How many such people attended Town Meeting (0,50?), and has there been any effect on their voting (no, yes, sometimes?)?
    Some people concerned about offending an employer, client, or customer by their public vote simply skip Town Meeting, contributing to low Town Meeting attendance. Do I know for certain that this happens? Yes. Do I know exactly how many Wayland citizens are in this situation? Of course not; most people are unwilling to share such information.

    As I said at last night's meeting, there is no one silver bullet that will eliminate all the impediments to Town Meeting attendance. We must identify and mitigate each of the contributors.

  9. #24
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    I still like the idea that legislative voting should be public, and town meeting is a legislature. Everybody’s vote effects the whole town, it’s services, my pocketbook, why shouldn’t I know the honest truth about it? Transparency... ? But it won’t kill me to vote privately, and it will certainly be quicker, etc. to use a clicker!

    To digress a bit

    Town Meeting, our time-honored N.E. democratic tradition. Is it really democratic? On the first night of Town Meeting, just over 300 people attended. That’s 3% of the approx. 10,000 registered voters in Wayland (and the number always dwindles as the night progresses). Is it really democratic when this “self-appointed” and of course personally “biased” 3% makes the spending decisions for everybody else?
    The second night was approx. 600 (6%). Better. (Perhaps the SOS folks should be complimented, their emails do get more people to come out and be involved, which is a good thing.) Third night, 250 people.

    So where’s the “democratic say” for the other 95+%?

    Likewise, in the recently past town election, 7,000 registered voters didn’t vote. 7,000, that’s twice the number who did vote. We just can’t blame them for not participating, seems the burden should rest with the town to find some way to engage those 7,000. But how? And back to Town Meeting, shouldn’t we find some way for decisions to be made by more than 3%, 5% (or in a good year) 10% of the voters?

    Menu Choice

    The way Town Meeting has gone, Alan got his way, line item choice for the capital budget. It’s good to try these things out. Perhaps we could analyze the implications of doing things with menus to choose from. Wouldn’t it be great if some finance committee member came here and explained what happens now, how it complicates things. Do they find money somewhere else to pay for the rejected items? Might the water department tell us how not having the new meters effects their operation? Might the recreation committee share how defeating the Bath House effects their plans and/or the current bath house septic system? The North Cemetery paving, the monies to do it now come from where?

    So Menu Choice? I suspect that any of the departments effected would see it as making the planning and carrying out of their programs more difficult. You’ll find it funny that I say this, because of course I don’t “trust ’em”, but in talking to people, several said that all of us criticize and second-guess our leadership too much. That we elected them and should just let them get on with doing their job. They’d say “menu choice” is just interference, adds inefficiencies, and in the long-run could be more expensive.

    What do you think?

    donBustin@oneWayland.org

  10. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by don Bustin View Post
    I still like the idea that legislative voting should be public, and town meeting is a legislature. Everybody’s vote effects the whole town, it’s services, my pocketbook, why shouldn’t I know the honest truth about it? Transparency... ?
    If you turn to page 76 of the warrant for our recently-completed 2010 Town Meeting, section D "the Vote", items 6 and 7, you will see that voting by secret ballot lies within the scope of Town Meeting rules. The effort and time required to manually conduct a secret ballot have limited its use, but its existence demonstrates that Town Meeting does not give each participant the right to see how other participants have voted. You certainly deserve to see the honest truth about each article, but you are not entitled by Town Meeting rules to learn how your fellow citizens individually voted.

    Since Town Meeting rules do not grant you the right to observe the votes of others, you'd have to change these rules to gain the visibility you seek. Accomplishing this would require a compelling argument, which in my opinion no one has yet offered. There was an attempt made on Wednesday evening; with apologies to Neil Young, it started out slow and then fizzled out altogether.

    Quote Originally Posted by don Bustin View Post
    To digress a bit

    Town Meeting, our time-honored N.E. democratic tradition. Is it really democratic? On the first night of Town Meeting, just over 300 people attended. That’s 3% of the approx. 10,000 registered voters in Wayland (and the number always dwindles as the night progresses). Is it really democratic when this “self-appointed” and of course personally “biased” 3% makes the spending decisions for everybody else?
    The second night was approx. 600 (6%). Better. (Perhaps the SOS folks should be complimented, their emails do get more people to come out and be involved, which is a good thing.) Third night, 250 people.

    So where’s the “democratic say” for the other 95+%?

    Likewise, in the recently past town election, 7,000 registered voters didn’t vote. 7,000, that’s twice the number who did vote. We just can’t blame them for not participating, seems the burden should rest with the town to find some way to engage those 7,000. But how? And back to Town Meeting, shouldn’t we find some way for decisions to be made by more than 3%, 5% (or in a good year) 10% of the voters?
    All registered voters in Wayland are "appointed" to attend Town Meeting. Only a fraction attend. Why? Here's a partial list:

    1. physical limitation precludes attendance
    2. family is higher priority
    3. work is higher priority
    4. the meeting is inefficient
    5. the meeting is physically uncomfortable (hard chairs, no food, etc.)
    6. vote counting is inaccurate
    7. voting is public
    8. the rules and procedures are confusing
    9. not interested in town governance


    Physical limitations, the consequences of public voting, and inaccurate vote counting do disenfranchise some Wayland citizens, including some of those who attend the meeting and vote! While a citizen can overcome the other issues on his or her own (at some cost and inconvenience), our objective should be to mitigate all of these, so that anyone interested can participate.

    As I said Wednesday night, there is no one action we can take that will solve all of these problems. Our problem is not a dearth of ideas; suggestions to address the above problems have been advanced for years. Our problem has been a dearth of resources to develop these suggestions into actionable proposals, gain approval of these proposals, implement the approved proposals, and then further refine them based on actual performance. The approval of an electronic voting pilot program is a good first step because it demonstrates that inertia can be overcome, and because it will alleviate three serious issues that if left unresolved could overshadow other improvements. We need a continuous, focused effort to address the problems that electronic voting does not alleviate. If you're interested in helping, inform the Moderator that you'd like to join the effort he's initiated.

    Quote Originally Posted by don Bustin View Post
    Menu Choice

    The way Town Meeting has gone, Alan got his way, line item choice for the capital budget. It’s good to try these things out. Perhaps we could analyze the implications of doing things with menus to choose from. Wouldn’t it be great if some finance committee member came here and explained what happens now, how it complicates things. Do they find money somewhere else to pay for the rejected items?Might the water department tell us how not having the new meters effects their operation? Might the recreation committee share how defeating the Bath House effects their plans and/or the current bath house septic system? The North Cemetery paving, the monies to do it now come from where?
    The new Beach House will not be built, the networked meter reading system will not be deployed, and the cemetery road will not be repaved. Town government does not have the option to find "other" sources of funding for these items; the operating and capital budgets were locked down by Article 5. If the DPW had a cogent business plan for its proposed water meter upgrade, the time to describe it was before the vote, not after. If there was a compelling reason to repave the cemetery road now, its proponent would not have withdrawn the proposal when it was challenged.

    Quote Originally Posted by don Bustin View Post
    So Menu Choice? I suspect that any of the departments effected would see it as making the planning and carrying out of their programs more difficult. You’ll find it funny that I say this, because of course I don’t “trust ’em”, but in talking to people, several said that all of us criticize and second-guess our leadership too much. That we elected them and should just let them get on with doing their job. They’d say “menu choice” is just interference, adds inefficiencies, and in the long-run could be more expensive.

    What do you think?
    Wayland's voters reduced the capital budget by ~25% -- more than $1M -- without cutting anything demonstrably mission critical. When it was pointed out that the "new Beach House" defeat meant that a serious drainage problem would go uncorrected, money to correct this problem was promptly approved. The argument given for not providing a menu was that voters would only support items that would benefit them as individuals, which would deny each of the proposed capital expenditures the required two-thirds majority; that clearly didn't happen.

    Bottom line: Wayland's voters acted responsibly.

  11. #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Bernstein View Post
    If you turn to page 76 of the warrant for our recently-completed 2010 Town Meeting, section D "the Vote", items 6 and 7, you will see that voting by secret ballot lies within the scope of Town Meeting rules.
    What it says in the warrant is: "In the event that a majority shall have voted that the vote on a particular motion shall be by secret ballot, the Moderator will ask the Tellers to come forward and take their places at the ballot boxes that will be placed at the front of the Hall by the Town Clerk." That is, in our current system a majority of voters have to agree to a secret ballot for the ballot to be secret, and a change to a default secret ballot is a change which voters should explicitly agree on. It may well be that most voters want it, but I think it should be explicitly adopted if to be used.

    Sue Weinstein made a comment suggesting a process the Moderator could use that mirrored closely one I suggested to the Moderator in an email several weeks ago. That suggestion was the Moderator might say, for example, "All in favor, please rise and hit the AYE button." I like this idea very much. Of course, some voters might push a button without rising for either AYE or NAY. Some might rise and put the other button. And most would probably rise as suggested and push the corresponding button. This would be useful because:

    (1) it would not significantly change the process from what we currently do, except that vote counting would be faster and more accurate;

    (2) it would enable the Moderator to get a sense of the room - any glitch in the voting would be immediately apparent (rather than being completely invisible and impossible to detect and correct, as it might be with completely "blind" voting)

    (3) it would enable voters to more easily detect an error in their voting (e.g., if they found themselves about to vote opposite their spouse on an item they know the two of them agree on)

    (4) it would provide secrecy to those who really want it, and

    (5) it would enable those who like to stand up and be counted to literally stand up and be counted.

    What do others think about this as a process?

  12. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kim Reichelt View Post
    "All in favor, please rise and hit the AYE button."
    This sounds completely bizarre to me.
    It's kind of like spending $400 for a new iPhone and then going in search of a phone booth to make a call.

    There are several good arguments in favor of electronic voting and privacy is one of them.

    We've heard some sound arguments for why privacy would be a benefit, and how there are a lot of people who would prefer it to standing in front of their peers in order to vote.

    However, I haven't heard a good argument for why we should be able to see each other's vote.
    Anyone care to take a stab at that?
    John Flaherty

    Any views expressed are NOT mine alone.
    Wayland Transparency - Facts Without Spin
    http://www.waylandtransparency.com/

  13. #28
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    Quote Originally Posted by John Flaherty View Post
    We've heard some sound arguments for why privacy would be a benefit, and how there are a lot of people who would prefer it to standing in front of their peers in order to vote.

    However, I haven't heard a good argument for why we should be able to see each other's vote.
    Anyone care to take a stab at that?
    John, my suggestion provides for privacy, in that no one would be REQUIRED to share their vote, only that they would be able to. Perhaps you would like it better if the moderator were to say, "All those in favor who wish to stand, please rise and press the AYE button"? (I had not meant it to sound mandatory)

    Enabling those who want to rise and vote would enable, for example, FinCom members who have studied an issue and perhaps have access to Town Counsel during debate, to broadcast their vote. It would enable spouses and friends sitting together who might have been discussing issues to visibly share their votes -- voting in opposite ways is fine, but also might highlight that someone misunderstood what was being voted on. (I will admit that it's happened to me.) It would enable the moderator to detect if there was any kind of glitch in the system.

    There are occasionally amendments whose impacts are not necessarily obvious to everyone in the room. Being able to see the petitioner and how they feel about such amendments is really useful (as in, if they don't object to changes being suggested to their article, then you can feel safe it's probably OK)

    I've heard the argument that if someone wants to let others know how they feel, they will go to the mike and speak. This is not always the case. Sometimes time is too short for another go at the mike. Some people don't like to speak, not because they are intimidated by the opposition, but because they dislike public speaking. Obviously, not everyone who has a position on a vote goes to the mike.

    Further, I don't think you can completely disregard the prior posts on this topic of Jon Saxton and Don Bustin on this issue, both of whom have pointed out that at Town Meeting we are legislators, and generally legislators' votes are recorded.

    You may disagree with these arguments, but I think they fail to be "bizarre".

    I'm really not sure what your objection with this is, or why it would bother you. Perhaps you could share your thoughts on that.

    You want your privacy, fine. Don't stand. But why take away the right of those who have always been able to rise and register our votes NOT to be private?

  14. #29
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    Kim,

    I resent the implication.
    The implication being that people need to see how other people are voting in order to decide for themselves how to vote.

    Do you think that people are that shallow?
    That poorly informed?
    Have no opinion of their own?
    Have insufficient backbone to arrive at their own conclusions without needing to take their cues from someone else?

    You can stand if you want to stand while placing your private vote, but the motives behind doing so seem to be to effectively veto one of the main benefits of e-voting so that one could still send the message to others in the room how they should vote. However, my guess is that the number of people choosing to stand when they don’t need to would sharply fall off in the next few elections, as people each in their own way arrive the same, logical 3 letter conclusion – WTH?
    (that stands for What The Hell. My previous version which was censored by the moderator had a different letter than "h".
    Apparantly, not only can you not use bad words here, you can't even allude to them. Welcome to 1984.)

    Though, I could be wrong. Intimidation, peer pressure, loss of acceptance and ostracization are powerful tools. And those who are weak, new to town with few friends, or just have no opinion or knowledge about a given issue may find it useful to know the positions of people they respect, (or people they don’t), and then cast their vote accordingly.
    John Flaherty

    Any views expressed are NOT mine alone.
    Wayland Transparency - Facts Without Spin
    http://www.waylandtransparency.com/

  15. #30
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    Quote Originally Posted by John Flaherty View Post
    WTH? (that stands for What The Hell. My previous version which was censored by the moderator had a different letter than "h".
    Apparantly, not only can you not use bad words here, you can't even allude to them. Welcome to 1984.)
    Actually, welcome to civilized discourse. The use of foul language, even when thinly disguised, is and should be unacceptable in this forum. The English language is versatile enough to allow you to express your views as powerfully as you wish without resorting to such improprieties.

    Quote Originally Posted by John Flaherty View Post
    And those who are weak, new to town with few friends, or just have no opinion or knowledge about a given issue may find it useful to know the positions of people they respect, (or people they don’t), and then cast their vote accordingly.
    I'm not weak and I'm not new to town, but I find that while there are some warrant articles on which I'm well informed, there are many on which I'm not. For these, I read the written pros and cons, but I also find it quite useful to know the positions of people who are better informed (particularly those whose opinions I respect, including the Selectmen, FinCom members and SC members).

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