Chicago City Council Purchased an Electronic Voting System – How Does it Stack Up?

Chicago City Council took a great leap forward into the modern age when they used electronic voting for the first time during their March meeting. So how does the city’s new voting system compare to what we offer?

Chicago's New Cloud-Based System

The council opted for a cloud-based system developed by a Chicago software company, marking the final chapter of a decades-long tradition of voice-and-hand voting. All the voting was done via personal tablets, which required a Wi-Fi based login before they could be used during the meeting. Once connected, they were able to make their choice and instantly see the results on screen.

Reportedly, the cost of the Chicago’s new voting system was $500,000. Compare that to under $10,000 for Meridia’s 300-person, secure, offline EZ-VOTE voting system! It’s only going to get cheaper if you need less clickers, but it’s not going to break your back when you need 1,000 or more.

EZ-VOTE 5 electronic voting system w keypads, carrying case and receiver
It's only easy when it's simple - just push 1 for Yes, 2 for No, or 3 for Abstain. Nothing to turn on, connect to the internet, or log into.
EZ-VOTE ADA Compatible Clicker for Visually Impaired

Do you Really Need Internet to Vote?

While Internet-connected devices and cloud based systems are acceptable for some organizations, many insist their voting systems are completely offline. They prefer the security and reliability of a local, closed-circuit, self-contained system that is inaccessible from the outside world. A local voting system communicates via a offline, close-ended, short-range radio frequency  (RF) signal and/or hard-wired connection. Therefore, the transmission and data never leaves the voting room. Internet-based systems such as the one used by the Chicago City Council sends votes out of the Chambers and into the Cloud to be counted, calculated, and recorded.

“The use of an electronic voting system helps us process the full markup votes among the 50+ members — accurately — in less than two minutes. By comparison, it used to take us 10 minutes to vote on a single item.”

-– Nancy Locke, Chief Clerk at Committee on Natural Resources

U.S. House of Representatives Seal

Simplest Form of Voting

The Chicago City Council also chose to use a multi-function device such as a tablet over a dedicated, voting-only device such as a voting clicker. While tablets can install voting apps to enable voting functionality, their ability to do many different things increases the complexity of their use. For example, tablets require users to first turn them on, connect to the internet, then navigate to the voting app and finally complete the login process before actually placing their vote.  With voting clickers, only a single button press is required. It has been reported that some alderpeople particularly had trouble with connecting to the network and the login process, but with Tech Support on standby, they were able to help them acclimate to the system. In addition, some were less experienced with navigating the custom touch-screen interface.

EZ-VOTE-5 Voting Clicker
New Hampshire House of Representatives Seal

“Meridia clickers are easy to use and their software can be operated effectively. We export the data and make it work with our proprietary software back at the State House. Meridia’s pricing, training, and support are wonderful, and I am glad to have worked with them.”

-– Paul C. Smith, Clerk of the House

EZ-VOTE ADA Compatible Clicker for Visually Impaired
EZ-VOTE ADA Compatible Clicker for Visually Impaired

Ultimately, Chicago’s new voting system is a great first step for the council entering a new, modern era; however, a strictly cloud-based system might not be necessary for the Council’s needs. While voting tablets allow for great flexibility when voting in multiple locations, they are also bound by Wi-Fi and may be more cumbersome to use for people who are less technologically savvy.

Meridia voting clickers can provide a simple, easy and much less expensive way to accommodate the voting audience. Clients can even customize the clickers to feature their logo and design, or to further streamline the voting by only showing the Yes/No buttons, or to include a Braille-enhanced keyboard for the hard-of-seeing and blind voters.

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