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Thread: How to Vote Electronically

  1. #16
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    Analogies aside, the electronic system that we experimented with on Thursday did not just make counting more efficient (a good thing, all would apparently agree), it fundamentally altered the nature of Town Meeting. Alan Reis recognizes this. I suspect that Dave Bernstein recognizes this. Stu Cartwright recognizes this. Kim Reichelt recognizes this.

    John, I ask that you join us in this recognition and be part of the debate about whether we wish to make this fundamental change on a permanent basis.

  2. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    Analogies aside, the electronic system that we experimented with on Thursday did not just make counting more efficient (a good thing, all would apparently agree), it fundamentally altered the nature of Town Meeting. Alan Reis recognizes this. I suspect that Dave Bernstein recognizes this. Stu Cartwright recognizes this. Kim Reichelt recognizes this.
    The second day of voting was much better. The key difference between the first and second day was that the Moderator did a far better job of explaining what a "yes" and what a "no" vote meant before each vote. That alleviates some of the concern that I have had about people not having a way to error-check if they misunderstand what the vote is about. The low-tech lightbulb approach to showing when the window was open was also a big improvement.

    However, the poll taken at the beginning once again failed to address the key question about "secret" voting. I grant that most people seem to want to be able to vote privately, and I have no interest in taking away that right. But the question is not whether people wish to vote privately or not, but whether some would like to have the ability to vote publicly. And by the way, even if 25% of the people want to be able to vote publicly, is it necessary for the 75% to deprive them of that right when it costs them absolutely nothing to grant it?

    Quote Originally Posted by DHBernstein View Post
    Those wishing to make their positions public can use the Pro and Con microphones to do so.
    Well, not so much. To a small extent that is true, but if everyone wishing to make their vote public were to go up to the mike to state their position, it would take longer for each of them to have their turn to speak than it would to just count the votes. And if people were to do this, it would be frowned upon as grandstanding. So, kind of a no-win situation for somebody who wants to be public about things.

    Further, with only around 200 people there for most of the proceedings last night, better demarked sections and trained tellers, standing counts could have been done pretty quickly. I guess we'll learn how quickly starting this evening... I certainly prefer electronic counting, but we'll need to put a pricetag on its benefits and its costs, both of which include non-monetary aspects.

  3. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kim Reichelt View Post
    But the question is not whether people wish to vote privately or not, but whether some would like to have the ability to vote publicly.
    Another way to word that would be "the question is whether or not we should allow people to promote and market their cause on the floor of the hall", because that is effectively what this would be and it is the only reason any one would want to vote publicly.

    The answer is no.
    Last edited by John Flaherty; 04-11-2011 at 11:04 AM. Reason: As Kim pointed out, didn't mean to say "candidate", meant to say "cause".
    John Flaherty

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  4. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by John Flaherty View Post
    Another way to word that would be "the question is whether or not we should allow people to promote and market their candidates on the floor of the hall", because that is effectively what this would be and it is the only reason any one would want to vote publicly.

    The answer is no.
    Candidates? I don't understand. This is about Town Meeting issues.

    John, I'm curious -- how did you feel about Mark Santangelo terminating debate several times last night? I got up to publicly give my position, and couldn't do so - not by standing or voting, or by saying what I wanted to. Did that bother you?

  5. #20
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    @Kim, at one of the recent Town Meetings (I don't recall if it was spring or fall, but it was in the renovated Field House), the Moderator disallowed a meeting member from speaking, presumably to make a motion to terminate debate. The disallowal appeared to be entirely arbitrary.

    @John, I think that you mean that YOUR answer is no, not that THE answer is no. Sigh, transparency takes another hit ... [grin]

  6. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kim Reichelt View Post
    The second day of voting was much better. The key difference between the first and second day was that the Moderator did a far better job of explaining what a "yes" and what a "no" vote meant before each vote. That alleviates some of the concern that I have had about people not having a way to error-check if they misunderstand what the vote is about. The low-tech lightbulb approach to showing when the window was open was also a big improvement.
    We should also arrange for the video displays to describe what's about to be voted, e.g. "Article 2, Main Motion", "Article 6, Amendment to item 15, Terminate Debate".

    Quote Originally Posted by Kim Reichelt View Post
    However, the poll taken at the beginning once again failed to address the key question about "secret" voting. I grant that most people seem to want to be able to vote privately, and I have no interest in taking away that right. But the question is not whether people wish to vote privately or not, but whether some would like to have the ability to vote publicly. And by the way, even if 25% of the people want to be able to vote publicly, is it necessary for the 75% to deprive them of that right when it costs them absolutely nothing to grant it?
    The absence of anyone waving "I'm Voting Yes" or "I'm Voting No" signs during votes in the second session was notable.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kim Reichelt View Post
    Well, not so much. To a small extent that is true, but if everyone wishing to make their vote public were to go up to the mike to state their position, it would take longer for each of them to have their turn to speak than it would to just count the votes. And if people were to do this, it would be frowned upon as grandstanding. So, kind of a no-win situation for somebody who wants to be public about things.
    It would take ~30 seconds for the first such speaker to reach the Pro or Con microphone. It would take 5 seconds for the first speaker and 10 seconds for each subsequent speaker to announce their name, address, and "I'm voting yes" or "I'm voting no". It takes 30 minutes to conduct a standing count of 300 voters. Do the arithmetic, and you'll find that 175 voters could state their position in the time it would take to perform a manual count. Unless you're claiming that more than half of all voters would prefer to make their positions public, the assertion that "It would take longer for each of them to have their turn to speak than it would to just count the votes" is false.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kim Reichelt View Post
    Further, with only around 200 people there for most of the proceedings last night, better demarked sections and trained tellers, standing counts could have been done pretty quickly.
    According to our Town Clerk, headcount at the midpoint of yesterday's session was 337. During previous Town Meetings, it took ~30 minutes to conduct a standing count of that many voters. And then there is the potential for a recount for close votes...

  7. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Dieffenbach View Post
    @John, I think that you mean that YOUR answer is no, not that THE answer is no. [grin]
    No, I meant to say THE answer, not MY answer. The question to which I was referring was about marketing & promoting on the floor of the hall, which is prohibited.

    Now, if you want to debate whether "voting publicly" read, telling others how to vote and sneering and scowling at those who don't vote "correctly", which we've all seen so don't even try to pretend that this is far-fetched, is the same as telling others how to vote, have at it.
    John Flaherty

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  8. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by DHBernstein View Post
    We should also arrange for the video displays to describe what's about to be voted, e.g. "Article 2, Main Motion", "Article 6, Amendment to item 15, Terminate Debate".
    That would be great. Also great would be a broadcast display of the numerical results.

    Quote Originally Posted by DHBernstein View Post
    The absence of anyone waving "I'm Voting Yes" or "I'm Voting No" signs during votes in the second session was notable.
    The Moderator had indicated in advance that this would not be permissible.

    Quote Originally Posted by DHBernstein View Post
    It would take ~30 seconds for the first such speaker to reach the Pro or Con microphone. It would take 5 seconds for the first speaker and 10 seconds for each subsequent speaker to announce their name, address, and "I'm voting yes" or "I'm voting no". It takes 30 minutes to conduct a standing count of 300 voters. Do the arithmetic, and you'll find that 175 voters could state their position in the time it would take to perform a manual count. Unless you're claiming that more than half of all voters would prefer to make their positions public, the assertion that "It would take longer for each of them to have their turn to speak than it would to just count the votes" is false.
    It doesn't matter how long it would take for people to do this. The audience would consider it obnoxious and intimidate people from doing it. Also, it would take longer than you think for the moderator to moderate such proceedings.

    In contrast, it would take a few moments to allow people to simply stand at their seat. If nobody was interested in doing it, the practice could be abandoned.

    Quote Originally Posted by DHBernstein View Post
    According to our Town Clerk, headcount at the midpoint of yesterday's session was 337. During previous Town Meetings, it took ~30 minutes to conduct a standing count of that many voters. And then there is the potential for a recount for close votes...
    There were no votes that had 337 voters. Below are unofficial tallies, and it's possible I didn't record all the numbers correctly, but here's what I had for the various votes:

    224-47: 271 (approve changes to enable full funding of recreation)
    204-46: 250 (approve operating budget)
    176-140: 316 (line by line review of capital budget)
    161-137: 298 (I noted that this was approximate:
    203-101: 304 (to not eliminate JCC Building repairs)
    206-78: 284 (to not delete water pumps)
    155-114: 269 (to not delete DPW design)
    116-131: 247 (to approve leaching field scope addition to study)
    132-89: 221 (to not eliminate school tech budget)
    115-99: 214 (to not move school tech -> free cash)
    124-68: 192 (to not eliminate school building repairs)
    165-38: 203 (to pass the capital budget)

    For a 255 average voters/vote. Four of these appear to be close enough to have required a standing count, plus the final vote for the capital budget overall required 2/3 -- it wasn't close, but I think it would have had to be counted as well. (Coincidentally, the average for the ones that would have required counting was 255 as well)
    Last edited by Kim Reichelt; 04-11-2011 at 11:31 AM. Reason: minor addition

  9. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kim Reichelt View Post
    John, I'm curious -- how did you feel about Mark Santangelo terminating debate several times last night? I got up to publicly give my position, and couldn't do so - not by standing or voting, or by saying what I wanted to. Did that bother you?
    John, just wanted to make sure you saw my question, because it seems to have gotten buried and you inadvertently missed it.

  10. #25
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    I didn't notice.
    John Flaherty

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  11. #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by John Flaherty View Post
    No, I meant to say THE answer, not MY answer. The question to which I was referring was about marketing & promoting on the floor of the hall, which is prohibited.
    I'm not following. "Marketing & promoting" on the floor of Town Meeting is most certainly allowed, if by those actions you mean having literature available and speaking for or against motions. If you mean something else, please elaborate.

    Quote Originally Posted by John Flaherty View Post
    Now, if you want to debate whether "voting publicly" read, telling others how to vote and sneering and scowling at those who don't vote "correctly", which we've all seen so don't even try to pretend that this is far-fetched, is the same as telling others how to vote, have at it.
    Bad behavior is certainly no stranger to Town Meeting. That said, acting as a Legislature and voting "in the open" doesn't have to be characterized by those behaviors. Far more often than not, it isn't. Indicating how one is voting is not, in my opinion, the same thing as telling others how to vote--at most, it's showing them how you'd like them to vote.

    There are pros and cons to "Legislature" and "Ballot Box" approaches to voting. To fail to acknowledge this is to bury one's head in the sand.

  12. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by John Flaherty View Post
    I didn't notice.
    Didn't notice my question, or didn't notice that residents were denied the right to speak? If the former, apparently, you've noticed now. If the latter, I am happy to describe what happened to you for your reaction. I am just trying to understand how my right to state my opinion remains in this world of combined secret balloting and debate termination. I am happy to be enlightened.
    Last edited by Kim Reichelt; 04-11-2011 at 11:46 AM. Reason: corrected mistake

  13. #28
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    I understand why someone would want privacy in voting. That's pretty self-evident.

    What I don't understand, with one exception, what reason someone would have for wanting to proclaim to the world "Look at me! THIS is how I'm voting on this!"

    The one exception, of course, is to influence others.
    They tried that in Chicago in the 30's with machine guns, and the results were mixed.
    John Flaherty

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  14. #29
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    Wayland Town Meeting is (or was, in any event) a "Legislature." Legislatures do their work in the sunshine, transparently.* I don't know the origins of why they were so constructed--it may be that they make better decisions (by some measure) based on their openness. If Wayland chooses to depart from its past approach, so be it. I'm just making the case that it should do so thoughtfully. And I'm not convinced that it's done so as thoroughly as it might, given that there's perhaps been a conflating of electronic COUNTING and electronic VOTING.

    * Legislatures tend to have the provision for a secret ballot, as Wayland does. In my memory (the last 16 years or so), the secret ballot hasn't been used in Wayland (until Thursday night). I suspect that this lack of use is in large part because of the logistics of doing so. I'm fairly certain that the US Congress has the ability to take votes by secret ballot, but it's rare at that level as well.

  15. #30
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    Quote Originally Posted by John Flaherty View Post
    I understand why someone would want privacy in voting. That's pretty self-evident.

    What I don't understand, with one exception, what reason someone would have for wanting to proclaim to the world "Look at me! THIS is how I'm voting on this!"

    The one exception, of course, is to influence others.
    They tried that in Chicago in the 30's with machine guns, and the results were mixed.
    Hi John:
    • why do people go to the microphone to state their position?
    • Why do people post lawn signs during election season?
    • Why do people write letters to the editor?
    • Why do people hold "vote for my candidate" signs at the Town Center or the landfill?
    • Why do people hold neighborhood parties for candidates?

    All of these things are not only legal, (with the exception of the lawn signs which in my opinion are just kind of ugly) they are wonderful ways voters participate in civic activities and promote their causes. Yes, I suppose, my wanting to stand up for my position is a way of hoping that my opinion is valuable and that I might influence people. Sure, I suppose that's just what it is.

    Do you have a problem with any of the other activities I mentioned in bullet items above?

    What standing to vote is not: holding a machine gun to someone's head (1930's Chicago-style or otherwise), or coercing them or bullying them or intimidating them.

    Did you have a problem with anyone terminating debate last night while citizens were trying to use their only available means to express their position?

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