Amherst Town Meeting adopts electronic voting

Amherst's Spring 2016 Town Meeting began this week, with the debut of its new electronic voting system. In November 2015, Town Meeting voted to amend its rules to allow the use of electronic voting, and appropriated funds for the purchase of an electronic voting system. The system was procured over the winter, and made its debut this week. The electronic voting system replaces the previous tally votes, which were conducted by members passing in green or red cards to indicate votes for or against an issue. These tally votes produced the data available on this site detailing the voting records for all Town Meeting members, but they were lengthy and cumbersome, taking up to ten minutes each to conduct a vote.

With the new electronic voting system, all votes will initially be conducted first by voice vote, as they always have been. On the call of a single member (or if the moderator is in doubt), an electronic vote will be taken. With the ability to take a full recorded vote of the entire meeting in about thirty seconds, the electronic voting system is expected to produce much more detailed information about the voting histories of each Town Meeting member.

The Spring Town meeting began on Monday, May 2, but the list of articles considered that night were relatively routine, producing mostly unanimous or near-unanimous votes, with no need to take any of the votes to the electronic system (apart from a test of the system at the beginning of the meeting). Wednesday night saw the first use of the electronic system, with a vote on a motion to increase the elementary school budget by $30K to fund library para-professionals. Apart from a few early hiccups, the system worked smoothly, with a vote outcome of 134 in favor, 12 opposed, and 6 abstentions.

The abstentions recorded in that vote provide an interesting new data point, since the old red-card/green-card tally vote system provided no way to record an abstention on a vote. A member could abstain by not passing in a card, but the records would only show that the member was in attendance that night and did not vote on that issue. There was no way to tell whether the member was actually absent for that vote (they may have arrived late or left early, missing the vote), or whether they were there but chose not to vote. With the new system, members can choose to vote "Yes", "No", or "Abstain" for each vote, and the statistics recorded on this site will reflect those votes.

About This Site

This site contains a comprehensive database of each individual vote in Amherst's Town Meeting since 2002, along with full attendance information. To get started, click one of the predefined searches on the home page, go directly to the search screen, or see the help section for full details on how to use the database.

Town Election History