Electronic Voting System in New England Town Meetings

Replace Hand, Voice and Paper with a Voting System

Never Again Count (and Recount) 2/3 Vote by Hand

Works with Open and Representative Government

Automatically & Instantly Calculate Any Quantum of Votes

Private & Anonymous Vote by Default

Count Both Yay and Nay Floor Votes in Real Time

Increase Town Meeting Participation

COVID-19 National Emergency and Public Health Emergency has been cancelled on May 11, 2023.
Meridia still recommends that you use Visual Vote Confirmation as a best practice in secure electronic voting.
Thank you for working with us so diligently over the last three years to make things work even in the most difficult of environments.

Electronic Voting System in New England Town Meetings

New England Town Meetings, often referred to as a true town meeting, are universally recognized as the purest form of democracy. Throughout Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Connecticut and Rhode Island, towns and communities call upon their citizens to come together in a formal setting to debate, discuss, and decide on matters that impact their lives and communities.

Prior to each meeting, a small board of elected “selectmen” which are essentially the executive arm of Government in New England towns, publish a Warrant, which is an agenda of important items to be voted on during the town meeting. Traditionally, town meeting participants have used voice, paper or hand votes to approve or disapprove of the Warrant items, however in today’s modern town meetings, many communities are quickly adopting electronic voting technology to accurately count the votes and calculate if an item has passed or failed.

Massachusetts Town Clerks' Association (MTCA) Logo
New England Association of City & Town Clerks (NEACTC) Logo
Maine Town & City Clerks' Association (MTCA) Logo

“The electronic voting system streamlined the process in multiple ways. Our moderator was able to call votes with a greater sense of certainty, as each vote total was shown directly to her, with the required quantum of votes threshold displayed clearly and instantly. Additionally, the public felt more confident in casting their votes anonymously with the new system.”

– William Blake, Assistant Town Administrator, Grafton, MA

Grafton MA Seal Logo

Case Studies

Leicester Massachusetts Town Seal

Town of Leicester

Town of Leicester needed to socially distance over 800 voters in a 80,000-sq foot facility.

Sterling Massachusetts Town Seal Color

Town of Sterling

Town of Sterling needed to have their town meeting at an air strip, where residents would vote from inside their cars.

Stow Massachusetts Town Seal

Town of Stow

Town of Stow was forced to split their voters into two separate spaces, about 150 feet apart.

What do Town Clerks Say About TownVOTE?

What are the main benefits of electronic voting in town meetings?

Anonymous Voting icon

Anonymity

Fear of intimidation – out.
Honest opinion – in.

Higher Attendance icon

Higher Attendance

Towns are reporting higher business owner, and general public attendance.

Instant Vote Count icon

Instant Vote Count

Every electronic vote is a secret ballot.
Done in seconds.

Herd Voting icon

No Herd Voting

Delay or hide how the individuals vote and/or delay which way the vote is swaying in real time.

Clear Vote Count icon

Clear Vote Count

No longer doubt the Moderator’s call of a Majority or 2/3 Majority after a voice vote.

Town Meeting Tradition icon

Keep Town Meeting Tradition

Town meeting’s debate stays intact. Use voice vote when appropriate and clickers when needed.

“The biggest benefit from having this system is I feel we are getting a true vote every time now. People are not afraid of their neighbor seeing or hearing how they voted. We do use it for every article, which saves a lot of time. No more queuing up to cast a secret ballot! I love that results are immediate and the audience sees them in real time.”

– Ellen Agro, Town Clerk, Mendon, MA

Mendon Massachusetts Town Seal

Frequently Asked Questions

Is the voting secure?

Yes.

U. S. House of Representatives and NH House of Representatives use the system.

Our TownVOTE software is set up to maximum security by providing a Visual Vote Confirmation by default.

As a whole, Meridia’s product is an offline, close-circuit, short-range RF voting system with proprietary communication protocols and unique configuration available for each town.

Towns like Groton and others have a dedicated voting computer that doesn’t have any Bluetooth or Wi-Fi hardware in them, so that no incoming or outgoing connections can be made.

Scroll down to the Security section and learn more at www.meridiaars.com/security to learn more.

How do I know the voting system is working?

Follow a Test & Run Checklist.

Feel free to dive into the details and download our “Event Checklist” from the Knowledge Base.

Make sure that you test the system (best in the Grid Mode) before the meeting to be confident that you can see all clickers ‘light up’ like this:

Clicker Test - TownVOTE Participant Grid

Your Keypad Range (KR) setting, and your Participant List (PL) should be the same (or leave Keypad Range much larger). For example, the KR setting could be 1 – 400 and PL can be 1 – 400. Alternatively, you can set KR to 1 – 1000 just in case you need to rent or borrow more keypads from Meridia, or your neighbors.
(Note: Keypad Range settings are accessible from the Connect Dashboard –> Settings –> connect the base receiver –> click Refresh –> change the KR setting and click Update).

Test voting from any angle in your meeting room and test the farthest corner.

See if any clicker shows the low battery indicator (learn more about keypad notifications) and change the batteries as needed.

If you confirmed that all clickers worked for you, then the only thing left is for the voter to actually push the button and make sure they see “OK” on their keypad screen. If they don’t see the “OK” on the first try, it’s OK to push it again – only one vote will ever be cast and counted.

How do you distribute keypads to the voters?

It’s an individual decision.

Feel free to contact us (click the Get Quote button, call, or email us) and based on your specific meeting venue, number of people, and your voter registration process, we can recommend the best way to do it.

Normally, the towns in Massachusetts do not assign keypads to individuals, so that the voting can be truly anonymous, but they might note the clicker number so that they can track it down if it is missing.

You can put the clicker inside the ‘voter registration packet’ if there is one given out at the door.

COVID-19 precautions also caused a lot of changes, so a sanitizing station(s) might be necessary, and you will most likely have more registration stations than usual, so that you can accommodate the social-distancing requirements.

We have a handy support article with a couple of examples of how the towns set up their registration tables:

Town of Rehoboth Town Meeting 2022 Registration Desks
Rehoboth Registration with PollPads

 

Seekonk Town Meeting Registration
Seekonk Registration Stations

Will everyone vote?

Unfortunately, no.

You may register 500 voters at the check-in stations, but you should expect voter participation rates will fall below the total number of clickers distributed.

Live audiences rarely pay attention 100% of the time, so expect a few participants to be out of the room, talking to a colleague, or distracted by their phone.

Other voters may be confused or undecided about the voting topic and opt not to vote as they don’t feel strongly one way or the other.

Some excited voters may try to vote before the moderator opens the voting window and some procrastinating voters may try to vote after the voting window has been closed.

While 100% voting participation can be forced by assigning devices to individuals and then calling out “John Smith“ by name for his lack of participation, the effort and time required may be a little more then most moderators are willing to pursue.

See our answer to “How do I know the voting system is working?” to learn more about what you can do to be confident in your voting system, and to educate voters on how to use it effectively and make them confident also.

Can I have a meeting outdoors?

Yes.

There have been many Town Meetings during the Pandemic that took place outside. Just ask towns like Orange, Sterling, Stow, Lancaster, or even New Hampshire House of Representatives who all held their meetings at airports, parking lots, baseball fields, and other odd places.

Is the tradition of Town Meeting affected?

No.

The voting hardware (clickers) and software are used to administer the voting part of the Article workflow. The initial motion, second, and the debate are not affected in any way. The Clerk can decide to take minutes and utilize our Speaker Timer feature during the debate, or record a voice/hand vote if desired, but the debate itself is never skipped, or otherwise modified by the voting system.

As always, it’s up to the Moderator to start and stop the voting period. Residents cannot vote outside of the voting window.

Who runs/operates the software?

Anyone can do it.

The TownVOTE software is so easy to use, anyone can do it. In our towns it’s either the Town Clerk, Town Administrator’s Assistant, the Moderator themselves, or a dedicated audio-visual, or IT person who comes to the meetings anyway.

Check out our Training Video and see for yourself.

Do the voters and non-voters have to be separated?

No.

If you don’t have a clicker, you cannot vote, therefore the need for separation is much lower. You might still want to separate the visitors for other reasons, but like in a Town of Carver, if you’re using lanyards, you can tell who is a resident and who is not very clearly.

Are the votes recorded anonymously?

Yes.

There’s no link between the keypad and the person in the TownVOTE software. You may want to record the keypad number that you’re giving to the resident, so that you can get it back at the end of the meeting, but the voting software doesn’t see that information.

The TownVOTE software can be configured to only show what you need to see – the subtotal of Yes and No votes, and a total of votes received. We also recommend that you hide the subtotals until after the vote is closed to prevent ‘herd mentality‘.

Anonymous Voting - No Grid Motion Passed

How do voters know the voting system is working?

Explain How Voting Works. Provide a Test Question.

It’s very important, especially if this is your town’s first Town Meeting with voting clickers that you explain how the system works. The introduction/instructions and a test question (or two) go a VERY LONG WAY toward trusting the system, and ease and speed of the voting process.

You can use (and customize) this sample presentation with instructions on how to use the Town Meeting voting clicker:

Also see this article about keypad notifications and feel free to use the images from it for your custom instructions.

Sometimes it’s a good idea to leave the test vote with “Test Your Clickers” open while the registration is in progress, so that people walking into the Town Meeting can push a button and see that the vote has been counted.

Do the keypads have any ADA-compatible features for visually impaired?

Yes.

Meridia can now offer a portion of the keypads in your order to be ADA-compatible. Click the Get a Quote button above, or call us at 610-260-6800 to learn more.

The keypads can be configured to make a sound when the button is pressed and we offer a special design of the EZ-VOTE 5 keypad with buttons enhanced by Braille (raised) symbols.

EZ-VOTE 5 Braille Versionv
EZ-VOTE 5 Braille Version

What happens if we lose some keypads?

No problem. You’ll disable them.

See the Security section a bit lower on this page for more details, but part of the software security configuration is the fact that you are able to define a segment of the keypad range that the base receiver (antenna) will recognize and it will not allow any keypad outside of this range to vote.

Similarly, on a granular level, you can disable an individual keypad, or keypads. That way, if it is lost, or someone just forgot to return it, but it might be in someone’s pocket at the next meeting, you can disable it and the keypad will never be able to submit a ‘rogue’ vote that you did not authorize.

Can I split the audience into multiple voting areas?

Yes.

We can accommodate multiple rooms easily. Towns like Stow and Raynham had to split their audience into indoor (gym and/or cafeteria) and outdoor (baseball field) in order to fit all the participants into the Town Meeting.

Do you need to split your voters into more than two rooms? Ask us how it’s done and what logistical accommodations do we use for those scenarios.

Are there grants, or other financing available to purchase the town meeting clickers?

Maybe.

Meridia does not provide financing. We do business with towns based on a PO or a direct invoice.

However, there are towns in MA which were able to get a grant to purchase the voting system through their Governor’s office. During the  COVID crisis, towns were able to utilize the ARPA and similar disaster relief funds that may still be available today.

Contact your Massachusetts Town Clerks’ Association representatives to see if they have more information.

Are the results shown to the public? How?

You can show them, or not.

It’s up to the Moderator to choose the voting method, thus it’s also up to them to choose whether to show the results or not.

Since you’re replacing a voice vote, or a hand vote, showing the results is not mandatory – you didn’t see the results before, right?
But since it’s very appealing to the public and it certainly adds to trustworthiness of the system, and the democracy behind the vote, we recommend that you do show the results to the audience, if possible.

You can consult with your audio-visual experts that you use for the projector screen and speaker & mic setup. They’ll tell you everything you need…but in simple terms:

  • connect your voting computer to a video cable (HDMI will do) that goes to your projector and show the results that way.
  • if you’re using more than one video input (e.g., PowerPoint presentations, videos, Word doc with your Warrant), you’ll need to use a video switch, so that you can (literally) hit a button on the switch after the debate on the article is over, and you need to show the voting screen and later the results.

Check out the image gallery on this page (click on the photo to enlarge it) to see how towns around you are doing it.

Town Meeting Photos & Videos

Wenham, MA

Wenham Town Meeting Electronic Voting System

See how Town of Wenham used the TownVOTE software to show how each individual voted, mimicking the typical, identifiable hand-raising vote.

Berlin, MA

Berlin Town Meeting Electronic Voting System

See how Town of Berlin used the TownVOTE software to collect anonymous, votes and prevent ‘herd mentality’ at their town meeting.

Lunenburg, MA

Lunenburg Town Meeting Electronic Voting System

Town of Lunenburg used their clicker voting system for the first time and loved how the 2/3 votes were instantly declared and displayed.

Ipswich, MA

Ipswich Town Meeting Electronic Voting System

Ipswich used their voting system for the first time in May 2022 and was satisfied with the clear, instantaneous voting results shown on the screen.

Get a Quote Button

Ever-Growing List of New England Towns Using Our Voting System

70 Towns and Counting…

Leicester Massachusetts Town Seal

Leicester, MA
Debbie Davis

Stow Town Seal

Stow, MA
Linda Hathaway

Sterling Massachusetts Town Seal Color

Sterling, MA
Kathleen K. Farrell

Rutland Massachusetts Town Seal

Rutland, MA
Anita Carlson

Town of Lanesborough, MA Seal

Lanesborough, MA
Diane Stevens

Charlton Massachusetts Town Seal

Charlton, MA
Karen LaCroix

Town of Uxbridge Logo Seal Black & White

Uxbridge, MA
Kelly Cote

Town of Bellingham, MA Seal

Bellingham, MA
Larry Sposato

Town of Hamilton, MA Seal

Hamilton, MA
Laurie Wilson

Wenham Town Seal Color

Wenham, MA
Nicole Roebuck

Town of Lunenburg, MA Seal

Lunenburg, MA
Kathryn Herrick

Town of Boylston, MA Seal

Boylston, MA
Dawn Porter

Town of Lancaster, MA Seal

Lancaster, MA
Kate Hodges

Town of Princeton, MA Seal

Princeton, MA
Nathan Boudreau

Town of Sturbridge, MA Seal

Sturbridge, MA
Lynne Girouard

Berlin Massachusetts Town Seal

Berlin, MA
Margaret Nartowicz

Town of Holden, MA Seal

Holden, MA
Jeanne Hudson

Lee Massachusetts Town Seal

Lee, MA
Christopher Brittain

Conway Massachusetts Town Seal

Conway, MA
Laurie Lucier

South Hadley Massachusetts Town Seal

South Hadley, MA
Sarah Gmeiner

Orange Massachusetts Town Seal

Orange, MA
Nancy Blackmer

Northbridge Massachusetts Town Seal

Northbridge, MA
Linda Zywien

Ware Massachusetts Town Seal

Ware, MA
Nancy Talbot

Town of Raynham, MA Logo Seal - Color

Raynham, MA
Marsha Sylvia

Bolton Massachusetts Town Seal

Bolton, MA
Pamela Powell

Rehoboth Massachusetts Town Seal

Rehoboth, MA
Laura Schwall

Westwood Massachusetts Town Seal

Westwood, MA
Dottie Powers

Seekonk Massachusetts Town Seal

Seekonk, MA
Florice Craig

Dedham Massachusetts Town Seal

Dedham, MA
Paul Munchbach

Warren Massachusetts Town Seal

Warren, MA
Laurie Stockley

Blackstone Massachusetts Town Seal

Blackstone, MA
Tara Sullivan

Carver Massachusetts Town Seal

Carver, MA
Cara Dahill

Longmeadow Massachusetts Town Seal

Longmeadow, MA
Lyn Simmons

Casco Maine Town Seal

Casco, ME
Anthony Ward

Hull Massachusetts Town Seal

Hull, MA
Lori West

Ipswich Massachusetts Town Seal

Ipswich, MA
Amy Akell

Aquinnah Massachusetts Town Seal

Aquinnah, MA
Gabriella Camilleri

Bourne Massachusetts Town Seal

Bourne, MA
Barry Johnson

Mendon Massachusetts Town Seal

Mendon, MA
Ellen Agro

Sudbury Massachusetts Town Seal

Sudbury, MA
Beth Klein

Georgetown Massachusetts Town Seal

Georgetown, MA
Kerri McManus

Naples Maine Town Seal

Naples, ME
John Hawley

New Marlborough Massachusetts Town Seal

New Marlborough, MA
Barry Shapiro

Town of Westford Massachusetts Town Seal

Westford, MA
Angela Harkness

Town of Carlisle Massachusetts Town Seal

Carlisle, MA
Wayne Davis

Town of Monterey, MA Logo Seal

Monterey, MA
Melissa Noe

Town of Groton, MA Logo Seal

Groton, MA
Mark Haddad

Spencer, Massachusetts Town Seal

Spencer, MA
Sandra Fritze

Town of Greenwich, CT

Greenwich, CT
Alexis Voulgaris

Town of Chatham Logo

Chatham, MA
Jill R. Goldsmith

Town of Medway Logo

Medway, MA
Stefany Ohannesian

Town of Williamstown Logo

Williamstown, MA
Nicole Beverly

Town of Belchertown Logo

Belchertown, MA
Theresa A. Camerlin

Brimfield MA Seal Logo

Brimfield, MA
Debra Fagerstrom

Harvard MA Seal Logo

Harvard, MA
Lynn Kelly

Mashpee MA Seal Logo

Mashpee, MA
Wayne Taylor

Grafton MA Seal Logo

Grafton, MA
William Blake

Town of Hopkinton MA Logo

Hopkinton, MA
Connor B. Degan

Town of Freetown MA Logo

Freetown, MA
Cheryl C.A. Estrella

Town of Littleton MA Logo

Littleton, MA
Diane Crory

Town of Southborough

Southborough, MA
Jim Hegarty

Town of Norwood, MA

Norwood, MA
John Cianciarulo

Northborough MA

Northborough, MA
Andy Dowd

Brookfield MA

Brookfield, MA
Cathy Larocca

Town of Marblehead, MA

Marblehead, MA
Thatcher Kezer

Town of Otis MA

Otis, MA
Lyn O’Brien

City of Stamford

Stamford, CT
Valerie Rosenson

Town of Sandwich MA

Sandwich, MA
Taylor White

Town of Sheffield MA

Sheffield, MA
Felecie Joyce

Town of North Brookfield MA

North Brookfield, MA
Tara M Hayes

Meeting & Voting Security Best Practices

Everyone involved in a town meeting, from the participants to the organizers need to do their part in ensuring that the voting is secure, accountable and accurate.

Meridia provides a highly secure, offline, close-circuit, short-range system that can be configured to your needs and defaults to a Visual Vote Confirmation for absolute vote integrity. As a meeting organizer, you need to make sure that the vote happens in a secure environment.

Visit our Electronic Voting Security page for full details. Here are a few highlights on how to make the meeting and especially the voting as secure as possible.

What Meridia System Offers

  • Proprietary Radio Frequency (RF) protocol with multiple layers of security checks, like detection of channel interference.

  • The close-circuit nature of the system and relatively short range means that only the people in the immediate vicinity of the system can vote.

  • You can ask that we ship the system so that only specific keypads can work with the pre-configured base receiver (antenna).

  • Lost clicker can be prevented from voting by removing it from the (required) participant list.

  • The software allows for keypads to be assigned to individuals, while still keeping the vote results anonymous.

  • Many voting screen configuration options, including Vote Confirmation Grid, Anonymous - No Grid, and combination thereof.

What You Need to Know

  • Distribute keypads from a controlled location. Secure the remaining/undistributed keypads to prevent theft.

  • Secure the perimeter of the voting area. Make sure no unauthorized persons are in it.

  • Control the movement of voters in and out of the voting area. Collect keypads when they leave.

  • Make sure your computer running the Meridia software is up-to-date and secure.

  • Test the system before each meeting. Use one or two test questions to teach the audience how to use it.

  • Set up a Visual Vote Confirmation screen to allow the audience to audit their votes.

We recommend that you create a Checklist of things you need to do before each meeting and that you designate staff that will be responsible for each element/task. You can base your version of the Checklist on ours – find it in the Knowledge Base.

Large Meetings & Strange Venues

Large Venues

Having a meeting inside a large venue can be intimidating and requires careful planning. Especially when it comes to electronic voting systems, you should consider consulting with, or even hiring on-site technical support.

With advanced antenna arrays, even an area of 80,000 square feet with two levels where voters in Town of Leicester, MA could freely seat themselves observing all COVID-19 restrictions can be covered easily and securely.

Leicester Town Meeting Electronic Voting Systems
Leicester Town Meeting Two-Story 80,000 Sq/F Warehouse

Strange Spaces

With our Extended-Range Base Receiver, we can cover a large area (like an airport field in Town of Sterling, MA) as well as accommodate up to 2,000 voters. With multiple receivers, we can easily handle up to 16,000 total participants.

In some of our meetings, due to COVID-19 restrictions, we had to split the audience into two sections (like in Town of Stow, MA) – inside and outside, and bring all votes together as if they were sitting all in one room.

Contactless Drive In Voting Sterling Massachusetts
Holding a town meeting at an airport has its long-distance challenges.
Electronic Voting Systems - EXTended Range Base Receiver
EXT Receiver covers a larger area and up to 2,000 voters.
Get a Quote Button
TownVOTE council electronic voting system

TownVOTE

TownVOTE is a simple, yet powerful electronic election software for your town meetings. It features an adjustable-size voting grid with Visual Vote Confirmation, so you and your residents know that their votes have been counted.

Article/Motion summary as well as the Pass/Fail status of each vote is shown for everyone to see, providing clear view and complete transparency to your voting process. Reports consist of raw data in Excel format and actual, indisputable screenshots of what the voting grid looked like when polling was closed.

You have full control over whether to show voters’ names, or keep everything anonymous; whether to show the vote’s progress in real-time, or only at the end of the vote to prevent ‘herd mentality‘.

User can pre-enter the questions based on the Town Meeting Warrant schedule and simply call them up in the order they were entered, or easily skip around in any order that becomes necessary.

If a motion is entered from the floor, or an amendment needs to be entered ad-hoc, just duplicate any existing topic or enter a new one in just two clicks and go right back to voting.

Anonymous Voting - No Grid Motion Passed
Show just the summary of the Motion, Subtotals and Totals and an instant Pass/Fail status after the vote is closed.
TownVOTE Anonymous Visual Vote Confirmation w Subs 360v Closed
In real time, or when the vote closes, show that a keypad voted or how they voted, but keep their vote anonymous.

Purchase Our Clickers

All Meridia wireless audience response clickers have dedicated Yes/No/Abstain buttons and display for enhanced vote confirmation increasing voters’ confidence in the system and clearly confirming their activity.

Choose your clicker based on battery life, size, display or range.

EZ-VOTE 5
EZ-VOTE 10
EZ-VOTE HD
EZ-VOTE PRO
Coin-Cell Batteries
(6-12 mo life)
Coin-Cell Batteries
(6-12 mo life)
AAA Batteries
(up to 4 year life)
AAA Batteries
(up to 4 year life)
5 voting buttons
10 voting buttons
10 voting buttons
13 voting buttons
$
$$
$$$
$$$$
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