Electronic Voting Procedures

At its Annual Town Meeting in 2023, Andover decided to allow for in-person electronic voting at Andover’s Town Meetings. Electronic voting provides several benefits: it allows votes to be anonymous, ensures an accurate vote tabulation, and removes the need for time-consuming “standing” counts.

The voting devices, or handsets, look a bit like TV remote controls – but instead of pushing buttons to changes channels, voters push the buttons to vote: the 1 button for “Yes,” or the 2 button for “No.” 

The following describes the procedures that will govern electronic voting at Andover’s Town Meetings.

Voter Check-In 

Voters are strongly encouraged to arrive for voter check-in between 6:00-6:45pm. Given the procedures associated with electronic voting, the check-in process will take more time than usual. The meeting will start promptly at 7:00pm

Voters attending the Town Meeting will check-in with Town Clerk’s Office staff operating “PollPads,” as has been Andover’s practice for years. As voters check-in to confirm their voter registration, they will be given a handset for use during that Town Meeting session. 

Handsets are turned on and activated prior to distribution to voters, so voters do not need to “start’ the handset upon receiving it.

Each handset is programmed to function in a specific section of the Field House. Accordingly, once a voter has checked-in and received a handset, the voter should walk to the Field House and sit in the section that corresponds to the colored dot on the handset. Ushers will be available guide voters to the correct section.

When voters check-in, voters should tell the Town Clerk’s Office staff if they wish to sit in either (a) a socially distanced section, or (2) a section for voters who are accompanied by children. These preferences need to be expressed at voter check-in so that voters can be given the correct handset for the particular seating sections.

Test Votes 

Because electronic voting is new to Andover, we will begin the Town Meeting with a “test vote” to ensure that all voters are comfortable with the handsets and the voting procedures.

The Moderator will pose a question like “Will the Red Sox win the pennant this year?” Voters will have 30 seconds to vote. The 1 button is for Yes, and the 2 button is for No. During the voting period, voters will be able to change their votes should they wish to do so. The system counts only the last button pushed by the voter. When the 30-second voting period ends, the Moderator will announce that the test vote is complete, and will thereafter announce the results.

Voting Process 

Each time a vote occurs, the Moderator will announce the beginning of a 30-second voting period during which voters may vote via their handsets. During the voting period, a “voting light” near the Moderator will be illuminated. 

  • The 1 button votes Yes, and the 2 button votes No. 
  • Each handset will provide voters with a personalized confirmation message on the handset display (e.g., “YES Received” or “NO Received”). This confirms to the voter which vote was received by the vote tabulation system. Note that “NO Received” is not the same thing as “Not Received.”
  • If a voter accidentally pushes the wrong button, the voter may change his or her vote by pushing a different button (i.e., 1 or 2). A voter may change his or her vote multiple times during the voting period. 
  • If a voter does not want to participate in a particular vote, they simply do not push any buttons during the voting period. 
  • Pushing any of the handset’s other buttons (e.g., 3, 4, 5) during the voting period will not register or change a proper vote. In this case, the handset will encourage the voter to “Re-Vote” by pushing the 1 button for Yes or the 2 button for No.

When the 30-second interval is over, the “voting light” will be extinguished and the Moderator will announce that the vote is complete. Thereafter, the Moderator will announce the results as indicated at a display that is connected to the voting tabulation computer. 

No proxy voting is allowed. That is, voters may only vote via the handset provided to them at voter check-in. No voter may vote on a handset of another person even with that person’s permission.

Voters Unable or Unwilling to Vote Electronically

Voters who are physically unable to use a handset to vote, or are otherwise not willing to vote electronically, will be asked to indicate such at voter check-in. These voters will be seated in a designated section and will vote via a paper ballot given to them by the Town Clerk’s Office. These ballots will be conveyed to the Town Clerk after each voting period concludes to be added to the electronic tally. 

The Town will offer special braille handsets for visually challenged voters. 

Electronic Voting Help Desk 

Every handset has been tested before the session. Therefore, the probability of a handset failing is extremely low. However, if a voter tries to vote during a voting period and is unable to do so, a Help Desk within the Field House is available to provide assistance.

If a voter pushes the handset’s no. 1 button or 2 button during a vote and does not see the word “Received” on the handset display to confirm tabulation of a vote, that voter should walk to the Help Desk.

  • The Help Desk will provide that voter with a new handset. 
  • If the replacement handset is not provided in time for that voter to cast a vote during the voting period, the voter will be given a paper ballot to complete. That ballot will be brought to the Town Clerk, who will then add the vote to the electronically tabulated vote.

Handset Return 

Voters are asked to keep their handsets with them while in the Field House during the Town Meeting. If a voter needs to leave the Field House to use the restroom, make a phone call, etc., the voter will be asked at the exit to leave their handset with Town Clerk’s Office staff. The staff will write the voter’s name on a slip of paper, rubber band the paper to the handset, and hold the handset until the voter is ready to re-enter the Field House, at which point the voter may retrieve his or her handset.

If a voter is leaving the Field House and will not return during the Town Meeting, the voter will be asked to place their handset in a collection receptacle at each of the exits. If a voter forgets to turn in a handset, please return the handset to the Town Clerk’s Office the following day. Handsets that are not returned to the Town Clerk’s Office will result in a significant cost to the Town.  

Handsets removed from the meeting space will not work in future sessions or Town Meetings.

Other Questions

The handsets and vote tabulation system are not connected to the internet. The signals are encrypted proprietary algorithms, and each device transmits unique coded ID.

For those wondering how much radio energy is used by a handset to convey a vote wirelessly, each handset uses half the power of a typical cell phone and transmits for only a brief instant after each vote. The handsets use the same frequencies as Wi-Fi wireless internet access.