Frequently Asked Questions

Q1: Does electronic voting really save us time?

A: Along with its other virtues, electronic voting is designed to shorten the amount of time we spend voting. The open voting window is arbitrarily set by town meeting to be 30 seconds and typically we spend about 45 to 60 seconds on each and every vote. Because voice voting is extremely inaccurate, a voting margin of 20% or less usually results in a re-vote which often involves dividing the audience to stand for Yea and Nay to be manually counted by roaming tellers. Electronic voting eliminates the standing counted vote (SCV) which can take 10's of minutes and is non-private and energy draining. Quantums of 2/3rds used for borrowing and zoning legally require precision to know if 66.66% of the voters have really passed the article or not. This is an important place where electronic voting always saves us precious time.

Electronic voting has already saved the citizens of Wayland many hours of unnecessary voting time and trouble.

Q2: Why do we lease the equipment rather than just purchasing it.

A: Leasing provides us with greater freedom and flexibility. Equipment becomes broken, batteries run down, equipment becomes outdated. Running the voting show requires a level of expertise - especially for OPEN town meeting. The lease is a turnkey package which includes personnel and does all of this for us and much more.

Q: Why was the electronic voting resolution based on 3 years.

A: Wayland has negotiated minimum lease term with its electronic voting servicewhich provides us with a 30% discount.

Q: How long will Wayland have electronic voting at its town meeting?

A: The short answer is "as long as the people want it". More precisely, Article 31 April 2012 passed a resolution to have electronic voting at every town meeting and every session of town meeting for 3 years going forward. This means that Wayland will have to make another decision on or before Annual Town Meeting 2015.

Q: Are my votes really private with Wayland's electronic voting?

A: Unless somebody is watching your fingers or staring at your LCD keypad screen then your vote is private. But these are easy things to take care of. The keypad vs. voting record is not permanent and is removed from memory shortly after each successive vote is taken. No permanent record is ever created so there is no record to ever be retrieved.

The town of Acton’s STM on 6/3/13 held a ‘paper ballot’ vote and you can see it at this link. The secret ballot starts at about 1:30 and last for about 1 hr. When you watch it you can see the time, effort and problems associated with performing secret paper ballots. In Wayland, we can do this secret vote in 60 seconds - everytime - every vote !

Q: The keypads are registered to me personally. Doesn't that break the privacy of the vote?

A: The keypads are registered to you personally through the barcode on the surface of the keypad and that is done so that the vendor can get the keypads back. The voting is registered to the voting computer with an internal (non visible) code and no map is created or maintained between the two coordinate systems. Your vote is private - period.

Q: How come the voting results are not displayed onto a big screen or a big TV?

A: It is possible to do this but this is both a moderator decision and a technical decision to accomplish. Perhaps, in the future, this will be done.

Q: How does electronic voting handle non-residents who show up at town meeting?

A: Simple answer is that non-residents never get a keypad and therefore, cannot vote. Under the old systems of voting (shouting or standing) it is possible that non-residents could have participated in the vote and could have swayed the vote one way or the other - especially on close votes. Yet another plus for electronic voting. Enhancement of accuracy and prevention of illegal voter activity.

Q: What is the voting window?

A: The voting window is a period of time equal to 30 seconds which starts about when the light bulb turns on and about when the light bulb turns off. The 30 seconds is an arbitrary amount of time choosen by the moderator and recently affirmed to be appropriate by a test vote of town meeting.

Q: Did the moderator of Wayland change the town meeting rules to account for electronic voting?

A: Our previous moderator Peter Gossels created the original language to account for electronic voting and our current moderator Dennis Berry continued that language and further refined it. This language appears in the moderators rules and regulations on page 6 Section D (The Vote).

Q: What is a system Audit?

A: The moderator may choose to run a system test or audit at any time. This is accomplished by selecting a random set of people (after some vote is complete) who bring their keypads up to the front of the room to compare the vote displayed on their LCD screen of their respective handset to what is stored into the memory of the voting computer (which at that point has not been erased for the purpose of performing the audit). A 0% error tolerance is what is required. This procedure can take 5 or 10 minutes to complete.

Q: Aren't the keypads wireless and give off EMF?

A: The keypads are wireless, they give off EMF, they operate on the same radio band as WiFi and the EMF emmissions are far, far smaller than any typical cellphone which you already (most probably carry around with you and take to town meeting).

Q: I heard that town meeting asks that you turn off the WiFi on your personal electronics. Is this true?

A: Yes this is true. Your smartphone, laptop, iPad, ePad, Blackberry etc… can all be sources of WiFi EMF. Since the electronic voting equipment operates on the same radio band as WiFi then it makes sense to have as clean as a 'WiFi environment' as we can get. Why? Because, even though the voting system has the capability to overcome interference - potentially external WiFi can slow down the broadcast rates.

However, you can still keep your cellphone connection live since that operates on a different radio band.

Q: What is proxy voting and is it allowed?

A: Proxy voting is NOT allowed at Wayland's town meeting.

Each registered voter who attends town meeting is given one specific keypad (handset) which is registered to only that voter. The voter should only use his/her specific handset to vote and should NOT give his/her handset to another person. No other person should use another person's handset to vote. The act of allowing another to use *your* handset for voting is called proxy voting it is illegal.

At our town meeting we have the honor system when it comes to the enforcement of proxy voting and that enforcement is done through the eyes of our peers. The police also watch out for it too.

Q: Is the electronic voting system immune from hacking?

A: In theory, no electronic system is absolutely immune from hacking. But the system and procedures that Wayland has in place creates a huge burden on the hacker to be successful. First the system is closed, its not connected to the internet, that is; its only a local area net. The wireless keypads and receivers operate on WiFi frequences with similar power profiles and therefore only have a range of about 300 feet (line of sight). The system has multiple levels of frequency based hopping security along with hardware and software encryption. Lastly, we have an audit mechanism to test the security of the system which the moderator can routinely activate he chooses to do so.

Q: How come we can't use electronic voting to vote from home?

A: Two reasons. (1) Its currently illegal to do so by state law. (2) It is a very tall technological feat to pull off an open voting system where that system is immune from uncontrolled proxy voting and external hacking. If such a technology existed, however, the former reason would be the lessor of the two obstacles to overcome. Our present system is a closed system with controlled proxy monitoring and audit procedures. (See question Q14 above.)

However, in others parts of the world governments are experimenting with internet voting. Here are two interesting links:

e-Voting in Hawaii

e-Voting in Estonia

e-Voting inCanada 2013