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Norwell, Mass., Mulls E-Voting System

In the next few weeks, the Electronic Voting Committee plans to issue an RFP for an electronic vote-tallying system to be used at town meetings.

(TNS) — Norwell, Mass.'s Electronic Voting Committee plans to have a Request for Proposals (RFP) or a Request for Information (RFI) written up within the next few weeks for companies with electronic voting systems using smart phone technology.

The committee met Oct. 15 with two potential vendors for electronic voting technology, one with a traditional handheld keypad device and the other using modern smartphone and tablet technology.

The technology would be used to vote at town meetings.

A representative from Turning Technologies spoke to committee members about the software the company provides.

The device proposed is the ResponseCard RF LCD, a small hand held device, roughly the size of your palm, with 12 buttons and a small screen in the left hand corner.

When a button is pressed, or a vote is cast, the number on the corresponding button is briefly displayed on the hand held screen and a green light flashes, indicating that the vote has been recorded.

This product is used across the United States in classrooms and in the military, with 20 million devices being used around the globe and has a range of 250 feet.

In terms of security, each device would have a unique ID number that would be recorded on a roster and would not allow outside devices of this sort to participate in Norwell's voting process.

The Turning Technologies system shows the percentages and the actual counts of the votes on the screen where the questions are shown but not at the same time.

Committee members were concerned about people leaving a town meeting with the leased devices, forgetting to return them at the end, as there is little desire to purchase such a system as they can range into the tens of thousands of dollars and would only be used once or twice a year.

If leased it would cost a few thousand dollars and it would cost more money to have a Turning Technology specialist on site to help the moderator and others with any technical difficulties or questions about the product when used.

Voatz, established in 2015, is a company that deals with electronic voting that uses an app on an iPhone or iPad.

When the app is downloaded, preferably before a town meeting or other voting platform, once arriving at the event, the voter is issued a special code that is available only for a short period of time and can only be used for your registered device and can only be used through biometric security (fingerprint or face recognition that is associated with your smart phone).

This app can be used for Apple products as well as Android.

There are also tablets available for multiple voters to use.

The voter would scan their code given to them at the start of the meeting into the device to log in, cast their vote, log out and then pass the device down the row to the next person to cast their vote.

The percentages and the counts of the votes can be shown on the screen at the same time, something that is a plus.

With the Voatz system, no WiFi is necessary, although WiFi can be used, the voter can use the data on their phones.

Voatz would have people from the company be on site during the meeting to help with any technical difficulties or general inquiries about the product during the voting process.

This system would not cost the town much money, as no new equipment would need to be purchased, with the voters would bring their own phones or tablets with them to vote and for the pilot run at the May meeting, Voatz, who has previously run trials for $2,000 for other towns, has offered to do the pilot program for free if chosen, with the only requirement of having people test the system before a town meeting to have a more efficient test run the day of.

"This is more modern technology and the devices are built for security," Jason Brown said.

There are concerns with this kind of electronic voting technology of citizens in the community who are not entirely comfortable with using smart devices at town meeting, be it for security reasons or a lack of understanding the technology, as well as a worry that the voters devices would die during the Meeting, preventing a vote being cast.

Solutions to the later concern would be having charging stations available or using the tablets providing by Voatz.

Members of the Electronic Voting Committee agree that smart phone technology is the way to go for electronic voting for Norwell and were satisfied with Voatz's presentation but are going to have an RFP or an RFI written and distributed to find similar companies to Voatz who may have better systems to present to the town.

©2018 Wicked Local South/Mariner, Marshfield, Mass. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.