Thursday, February 14, 2013

Voting In The Digital Age

Town Clerk Sandra Burgess, center 

The nail biting time for election candidates their supporters and the media -- usually starting as soon as the polls close at 8:00 PM -- could be reduced if Amherst Town Clerk Sandra Burgess gets her lone capital item wish.

Ms. Burgess made her obligatory appearance this morning before the Joint Capital Planning Committee, the initial gatekeepers for all capital items purchased across all town departments for Fiscal Year 2014, starting July 1st.

The JCPC simply makes recommendations to Town Meeting, who holds the ultimate granting authority,  but a negative recommendation is the kiss of death.

Ms. Burgess made a modest proposal, only $8,850 for a GEMS computerized voting tabulator system that includes a (Dell) laptop , software, licensing and comes with a two year warranty.

The system would speed up the 10 precinct tally on voting night thus speeding up the breaking news of who won what position.  Equally important, the new system would also improve accuracy.

The results would still be "unofficial," however, as write ins and provisional ballots are  counted by hand the next day. Each election would cost an additional $175 in programming.  Average election cost in Amherst is around $14,000.

JCPC is using a target of 7% of the overall town budget as a spending guide, but not necessarily in a uniform manner across all departments.

The Town Clerk's operation budget for FY14 is $190,153 so a 7% share would come to $13,310, thus this request is well under her theoretical ceiling. 

The Town Clerk closed her presentation saying this system represents "The final step ... It would bring it all together for us."

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