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Hampden to look into voting machine

Date: 10/25/2010

Oct. 25, 2010

By Debbie Gardner

Assistant Managing Editor

HAMPDEN -- The Board of Registrars recently provided the Board of Selectmen with a list of persons who might serve on a committee to study the question of the town investing in an electronic voting machine.

The next step in the process is for the Board of Selectmen to approve the candidates and charge them with the job of collecting the necessary data on the issue. They would then report their findings back to the board and the registrars.

According to John D. Flynn, chairman of the Board of Selectmen, the voting machine issue surfaced recently when a resident questioned whether it might be time for the town to start using machines to speed up the vote counting process following the last election.

Hampden is among 71 Massachusetts communities that sill votes using paper ballots.

Flynn said the overreaching question for any committee studying the issue to answer is how purchasing such a machine would serve the town's needs.

Art Booth, a longtime member of the Board of Registrars and former selectman, told Reminder Publications the question of investing in a voting machine has come up before, with the last instance he could remember occurring in 1997.

"It bears looking into," Booth said of the voting machine issue.

Town Clerk Eva Wiseman said recent changes in election laws regarding voting now make it easier to accept votes that are cast electronically.

"We needed a signature before we could count a ballot [in the past]. Now, the laws allow electronic voting for people such as the military," she said.

Booth said that the voting machine issue goes beyond the estimated $5,000 to $7,000 cost of purchasing a machine.

"Even with an electronic machine, there are ancillary machines [needed]," he said "There would also have to be people there to still run the election and counters, and the A-team, should something go wrong."

Ultimately, he said, the voting machine issue would need to go before the town.

"There is an expenditure of money and we would want to have the voters make a decision as to what they would want to do," he said.

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