- Select Board
- Select Board Meeting Briefs
- January 9, 2023
January 9, 2023
Select Board Considers Governance Study Committee Recommendations in
First Meeting of 2023
- Select Board considers Town Governance Study Committee recommendation to lift residency requirement for Town Manager
- Votes to advance recommendation allowing in-person electronic voting at Town Meeting
- Approves Town Manager’s appointment of personnel, including the Town of Andover’s first Director of Communications
ANDOVER, MA - The Andover Select Board convened its first meeting of 2023 on Monday, January 9 at the Cormier Youth Center.
The Board considered two recommendations brought forward by the Town Governance Study Committee: removing the existing residency requirement for the Town Manager, and allowing the use of electronic voting at Town Meeting.
The Town Charter currently requires the Town Manager to reside in Andover during his/her term in office. The proposal to eliminate this requirement was presented to the Board by Bernie Lynch of Community Paradigm Associates, a consulting firm hired to support the work of the Governance Study Committee.
Lynch noted that lifting the residency requirement would provide an advantage to the Town in the event of a future Manager search by enabling the Board to consider candidates who may be unable to relocate to town because of limited housing availability, or due to considerations related to their spouses’ careers. Further, Lynch noted that the use of technology in the time since many Massachusetts communities implemented residency requirements has enhanced the ability of Managers to operate remotely, lessening the importance of living in immediate proximity of Town offices.
The Board opted to take up the recommendation at a future meeting to allow residents to have an opportunity to weigh in. If approved by the Select Board, special legislation to amend the Town Charter would require subsequent approval at Town Meeting.
The Board also heard a presentation from Andy McBrien, a former member of the Governance Study Committee, relative to the use of electronic voting at Town Meeting. The proposal, which is among several enhancements to Town Meeting put forward by the Committee in its 2021 report, would introduce the ability for in-person voting through an electronic device, but would not permit remote electronic participating in Town Meeting.
The proposed voting format would require that all registered Town Meeting voters receive an electronic voting device at check-in. The devices, which would feature a simple set of buttons to allow user to vote “yes,” “no,” or “abstain,” would not be traceable to the individual voter to ensure privacy in the voting process. The devices would be activated to function strictly on the date that they are issued, thus preventing a Town Meeting participant from retaining a device at the conclusion of one Town Meeting session, and voting on multiple devices in a subsequent session.
In outlining the benefits of electronic voting, McBrien noted that the system would improve privacy in the voting process, promote integrity in the voting process by ensuring that votes are counted accurately, and generate efficiency of Town Meeting by reducing long durations associated with other voting methods – all of which may serve to increase participation in Town Meeting.
As noted during the meeting, the Town has previously considered the implementation of electronic voting, including most recently in 2019. Previous efforts were ultimately deferred, largely due to concerns related potential hacking and fraudulent activity. This matter was considered at length by the Governance Study Committee, which has a high degree of confidence in the system’s security. Town Moderator Sheila Doherty weighed in on this point, noting that electronic voting service providers have made significant advancements in improving security since the measure was last considered in Andover.
The Board voted 5-0 to approve the Study Committee’s recommendation on electronic voting. The matter will next be considered during the 2023 Annual Town Meeting, where voters will consider two related articles; a bylaw amendment to allow the use of electronic voting, and an appropriation providing funds to lease the electronic devices and supporting software.
At the conclusion of the meeting, the Board approved several appointments by the Town Manager of employees and board and commission members. Notably, the Board approved the manager’s appointment of Phil Geoffroy as the Town’s Director of Communications, a new position created with the Board’s approval to advance the objective of increasing engagement between Town departments and residents.
The Cormier Youth Center served as the backdrop of this meeting, as Chairman Alex Vispoli continues the “Select Board on the Road” series, intended to enhance the accessibility of Select Board meetings. The full meeting can be viewed online through AndoverTV.
The Board is scheduled to convene next on Monday, January 23 at 7:00 PM.