A suburb of Boston, Massachusetts, Belmont is a historic New England town of more than 24,000 residents. Elected Town Clerk Ellen O’Brien Cushman is responsible for the day-to-day operations of managing council records and issuing licenses and permits to overseeing and certifying all town, state and federal elections. The Town Clerk’s office also supports Representative Town Meetings, which is a form of local government comprised of 300 elected members from eight voting precincts around the community who work together to set laws, budgets and policies of the town.
The voting process is conducted in one of three ways: 1) Voice Votes of those in attendance as declared by the Town Moderator; 2) Standing Vote to quantify the voice vote in aggregate, if requested by Town Meeting Members; or 3) Roll Call Vote of each member, attributing a specific vote to a specific Town Meeting Member.
A Roll Call Vote can only be taken if at least 35 Town Meeting Members request it at the meeting. An article that has already been voted can be brought back to the floor for reconsideration if two-thirds of the Town Meeting Members present vote to reconsider the article. Information regarding warrant articles is customarily delivered through PowerPoint presentations, but, as Ellen explains, the process quickly grew restless with members.
“It was a fairly static use of PowerPoint,” stated Cushman. “We also heard that Town Meeting Members wanted more accuracy on each vote to make sure that the results were declared not on the strength of their voices, but the numbers of their votes.”
Ellen, determined to resolve the issue, decided it was time to explore new ways of engaging the audience in an interactive, yet informative setting while still using PowerPoint.