Table of Contents
In Amherst's Town Meeting, voting is conducted first by voice vote, with the Moderator declaring whether the Ayes or the Nos have prevailed. In cases where the Moderator is unable to discern the outcome, or when the outcome is challenged, voting proceeds to either a counted standing vote, or to a tally vote. In a tally vote, each Town Meeting member hands in a red or green card indicating his or her vote. These cards are counted to determine the outcome of the vote, and the results are published on the Town of Amherst website, showing the individual votes of each member.
This database aggregates tally vote results across multiple years of voting in Town Meeting, and provides a variety of tools to allow users to lookup voting records for specific votes, members, and time periods.
A sample set of voting results are shown below. This set of results shows the voting history of Select Board members at the Spring 2008 Annual Town Meeting for selected votes during that meeting.
|Num||Name||Precinct||Current||Attendance||Vote 69||Vote 70||Vote 74|
|1||ANNE S. AWAD||EX-SB||Y||95 of 100 (95.0%)||YES||NO||YES|
|2||ALISA V. BREWER||EX-SB||Y||96 of 100 (96.0%)||NO||YES||YES|
|3||STEPHANIE J. O'KEEFFE||EX-SB||Y||42 of 42 (100.0%)||NO||YES||YES|
|4||DIANA B. STEIN||EX-SB||Y||59 of 72 (81.9%)||NO||NO||YES|
|5||GERALD S. WEISS||EX-SB||Y||80 of 83 (96.4%)||NO||NO||YES|
The results begin with a list of the votes that are shown. Each vote is identified by a vote number (here, 69, 70, and 74). This number is an internal key to uniquely identify each vote. Each vote vote shows a short description identifying the main subject matter of the vote. For more details about the vote, move your mouse over the "Details" link that follows each vote description. This will popup a small window that displays the article number, vote category, voting date, result of the vote, and a longer description of the vote subject matter.
After the list of votes, the actual results are shown. These are displayed in a table, where each row represents the voting history for a single member, and each column represents the results from a single vote. The columns displayed are as follows:
- Num - A sequential number identifying the position of the member in the list.
- Name - The name of the Town Meeting Member. Each name is a link, and you can click on the links to go to the member details page for each individual member, which lists all of that member's votes.
- Precinct - The precinct represented by the member. Note that for members that have moved from one precinct to another, the precinct is the one the member currently represents, and is not necessarily the same as the precinct the member resided in during the vote(s) in question. Town Meeting also has Ex-Officio members (people who are members by virtue of another office that they hold, such as members of the Select Board, as shown here). For Ex-Officio members, the Precinct column displays a text identifier such as "EX-SB", rather than a precinct number. You can move your mouse over this identifier to see details about which office is represented.
- Current - A "Y" or "N" indicating whether or not the member is currently a member of Town Meeting. Town Meeting membership changes each year, and not all members shown are necessarily currently members of Town Meeting.
- Attendance - The attendance record for the member. The attendance shown here represents attendance at all eligible sessions back to 2002. More details on attendance are discussed below.
- Vote 69, Vote 70, Vote 74 - These columns show the actual vote results for each vote. You can move your mouse over the header for the vote columns to see details about each vote.
The top of each output screen also includes a link called "Link to this page". This allows you to create link that will display the same output page. More details on this are shown below.
The output screen also includes an option to change the display format of the results. The "Display format" drop-down located immediately above the results table has two options, "Standard" and "Condensed". The default option, "Standard", produces the output format shown above. The "Condensed" option is useful for displaying large tables of results. It uses a smaller font, and compresses many of the text elements ("Y" and "N" instead of "YES" and "NO" for vote results, for example). You can switch back and forth between the two formats using this drop-down. An example of the "Condensed" format is shown below.
|1||ANNE S. AWAD||EX-SB||Y||95 of 100 (95.0%)||Y||N||Y|
|2||ALISA V. BREWER||EX-SB||Y||96 of 100 (96.0%)||N||Y||Y|
|3||STEPHANIE J. O'KEEFFE||EX-SB||Y||42 of 42 (100.0%)||N||Y||Y|
|4||DIANA B. STEIN||EX-SB||Y||59 of 72 (81.9%)||N||N||Y|
|5||GERALD S. WEISS||EX-SB||Y||80 of 83 (96.4%)||N||N||Y|
The setup screen allows you to choose exactly what you would like to see in the results. You can pick specific votes (which controls which columns are shown in the results), specific members (which controls which rows are shown in the results), how attendance is displayed, how the results are sorted, and how ratings are calculated for each member.
Choose the votes you would like to see
Display all votes (74 Tally Votes)
Display a category of votes
All votes from a specific Town Meeting
Let me pick specific votes to display Select votes...
This section allows you to choose which votes you would like to see. The options are as follows:
- All - Display all the votes in the database
- Category - Displays a specific category of votes. If you choose this option, you must select one of the categories from the drop-down list shown with this option. Votes in the database are broken down into the following categories:
- Budget - Votes dealing with budget appropriations
- Zoning - Votes dealing with zoning bylaw changes
- Policy - Votes dealing with policy issues not directly involving budget appropriations (generally brought by town bodies)
- Petition - Votes dealing with a variety of issues, brought by citizens through the petition process
- Session - Displays all the votes from a specific Town Meeting session, such as the 2008 Spring Town Meeting. If you choose this option, you must select one of the sessions from the drop-down list shown with this option.
- Specific votes - Choose individual votes to display. Click the "Select votes..." link to go to the vote selection page, which lists all the votes in the database. On this page, you can select exactly which votes you would like to see. You will return to the setup page after selecting votes.
Choose the Town Meeting Members whose votes you would like to see
Display all members (current and former)
Display all members (current members only)
Display current members from a specific precinct
Display current and former members from a specific precinct
Display candidates running for specific offices
Display candidates running for election from a specific precinct
Let me pick specific members to display Select members...
Hide members with no votes
This section allows you to choose the members for whom you would like to see the voting history. The options are as follows:
- All (current and former) - Display all members, current and former.
- All (current only) - Display all current members.
- Current precinct - Display all current members from a specific precinct.
- Current and former precinct - Display all current and former members from a specific precinct. Note that the precinct associated with a member is their current precicnt. Members can move from one precinct to another, and Amherst changed its precinct boundaries in 2005, so for past data, members were not necessarily voting in the precinct displayed here.
- Candidates for townwide office - This option is only displayed during election season, and allows you to view all the candidates running for a specific townwide office.
- Candidates for specific precinct - This option is only displayed during election season, and allows you to view all the candidates running for a Town Meeting seat from a specific precinct.
- Specific members - Choose individual member to display. Click the "Select members..." link to go to the member selection page, which lists all current and former Town Meeting members. On this page, you can select exactly which members you would like to see. You will return to the setup page after selecting members.
The final option, "Hide members with no votes", can be selected independently of the other member selection options. Selecting this option will cause any members who do not have any votes on the issues you selected to not be displayed.
Choose the way you would like attendance displayed
Display detailed attendance codes
This section allows you to choose how you would like attendance results to be displayed. The three options in this drop-down allow you to control how the aggregate attendance column in the report output is displayed:
- All sessions - Displays the attendance record for all meetings for which the person has been eligible to attend.
- Current session - Displays the attendance record for the most recent Town Meeting session.
- None - Does not display the attendance record.
The "Display detailed attendance codes" option allows you to display more detailed attendance information for each vote. The database now has full attendance details for all votes. For each vote, a person falls into one of the following four categories:
- Voting (YES/NO) - The person was a Town Meeting member at the time of this vote, was present when the vote was taken, and voted YES or NO.
- Non-member - The person was not a Town Meeting member at the time of this vote. This is not the same as an absence; a non-member is not eligible to vote at all. Non-member status is displayed in the results as the letter 'x' with a gray background.
- Absent - The person was a Town Meeting member at the time of the vote, but was absent on the day the vote was taken. Absent status is displayed in the results as the letter 'a' on a white background.
- Present - The person was a Town Meeting member at the time of the vote, and was present on the day the vote was taken, but did not cast a ballot. This can happen if the person deliberately chose to abstain from voting, or was not present in the room when the vote was taken, or arrived late or left early. It is not possible to distinguish among these cases - the attendance records show a simple "Yes" or "No" that indicates whether or not the person checked in, but they do not indicate the person's presence or absence during specific votes. Present status is displayed in the results as an empty white box with no letter and no background.
If you leave the "Display detailed attendance codes" option unchecked, the results page will only display the first category - YES/NO votes. All other categories are displayed as empty white boxes. This is the preferred option for simply analyzing voting results, if you're not particularly concerned with attendance details, because the results are cleaner and not cluttered with attendance details.
If you check the "Display detailed attendance codes" option, the other three categories are differentiated in the results as described above. This allows you to see more details about why a person didn't vote on a specific issue.
Choose the way you would like the results sorted
This section allows you to specify how the results will be sorted. There are five options:
- Sort by name - Sorts the list alphabetically, by last name, then by first name.
- Sort by precinct, name - Sorts the list first by precinct, then by name within each precinct.
- Sort by rating - Sorts the list by rating (see details below on ratings).
- Sort by precinct, rating - Sorts the list first by precinct, then by rating within each precinct (see details below on ratings).
- Sort by attendance - Sorts the list by attendance (either the current session attendance or overall attendance, according to selection in the Attendance section described above).
The database includes a ratings system that allows you to specify your preferred votes on an issue, and to calculate a rating for each member, based on how that member's voting record compares to your preferred votes. An example of database output showing rated votes is shown below:
|Num||Name||Rating||Precinct||Current||Vote 69||Vote 70||Vote 74||Rating|
|1||ANNE S. AWAD||-1||EX-SB||Y||YES||NO||YES||-1|
|2||ALISA V. BREWER||3||EX-SB||Y||NO||YES||YES||3|
|3||STEPHANIE J. O'KEEFFE||3||EX-SB||Y||NO||YES||YES||3|
|4||DIANA B. STEIN||1||EX-SB||Y||NO||NO||YES||1|
|5||GERALD S. WEISS||1||EX-SB||Y||NO||NO||YES||1|
This example shows the same vote results as presented earlier, but this time preferences are applied to derive a rating for each member. The preferences used here are "No" for the first vote, "Yes" for the second vote, and "Yes" for the third vote. In the results table, votes that agree with the preferences are shown in green, and those that disagree with the preferences are shown in orange. You can move your mouse over the "Details" link in the vote descriptions above the table, or the column headers in the table, to see the preferences that are set for each vote.
In addition to coloring the vote results, the database also computes a rating by adding up the votes that agree with the preferences, and subtracting the votes that disagree with the preferences. By default, each vote counts for one point, but you can change this value to set different weights for different votes.
In the example shown here, Brewer and O'Keeffe both voted the same as the preferences that have been set on all three votes. All three of their votes are green, so their rating is 1 + 1 + 1 = 3. Stein and Weiss each have two positive votes (+2) and one negative vote (-1), for a total rating of +1, while Awad has one positive vote (+1) and two negative votes (-2) for a net rating of -1. Note that the rating column is shown twice, next to the member names and again at the far right side of the table, to make it easier to find the ratings in large tables showing many votes.
You can sort the output by rating, by using the options in the Sorting section discussed above. When sorting by rating, members with the highest rating are shown at the top, and members with the lowest rating are shown on the bottom.
Ratings: Specify your preferred vote on each issue
You can set preferences of Yes or No for each vote, to see color-coded vote results and numerical ratings.
You can set these preferences manually, or use the voting record of any member as a baseline.
Don't use ratings
Use my preferences Set my preferences...
Use voting history from the member shown below
For votes where this member did not vote
There are three options for setting your vote preferences: no preferences, manual preferences, or preferences from a Town Meeting member.
- No preferences - Using this option, votes will not be highlighted in color, and ratings will not be displayed.
- Manual preferences - Select the "Use my preferences" option to set your own preferred votes on each issue. Click the "Set my preferences..." link to go to a preference selection screen. This screen displays every vote, and allows you to set your preference for each vote as "Yes", "No", or blank. You can also choose a weight for each vote, if you want to use a value other than "1". You can set preferences for as many or as few votes as you want. You don't have to set preferences for every vote. Only votes for which you set preferences will be used in calculating ratings.
- Preferences from a member - Select this option to take voting preferences based on the voting record of a specific Town Meeting member. The selected member's votes will be used to calculate ratings. Any preferences you may have set manually will remain saved and can be used later. Most members don't have a complete voting history, so if you choose this option, there will probably be some votes whose preferences are not covered by that member's voting history. The final setting in this section controls how to handle votes for which the member did not cast a vote:
- Use my own preference - If you have set your own preference for the vote, then this preference will be used.
- Leave preference blank - No preference will be used for the vote; it will not be colored or used in computing the ratings.
- Don't show these votes - Votes for which the member did not cast a vote will not be shown. The votes will not be used in computing the ratings.
Each output page has a link in the upper right called "Link to this page". This link allows you to return to a specific output page, using all the options you configured on the setup page. You can save this link as a bookmark in your browser, link to it from another website, or use it to email a link to your output page. Clicking this link pops up a small window showing a URL which can be used to return to the output page. If you have voting preferences set, these preferences will be included in the link, and the results will be highlighted and rated as per the preferences you have set.
Some examples of predefined output links are shown below. Click on any of these links to display the results in a new window.