With more than 12,000 registered voters, Hudson is by far the largest community in Massachusetts to count its results by hand each election night. That will soon change. The town’s capital plan for next fiscal year, approved by Town Meeting early this month, includes spending $56,000 to purchase eight electronic voting machines, one for each of Hudson’s seven precincts and one backup. For at least the last 15 years, town officials have mulled switching from hand-crank ballot boxes, which require a crew of vote counters each election night to tabulate the paper ballots. But they’ve been reluctant to switch from a system they know works to one they are not familiar with, according to Town Clerk Joan Wordell. “We’re going to miss it. Tradition, you know?” she said. “What I won’t miss is at 8 o’clock when everyone has to start counting and then people start asking, ‘What time do you think the results will be in?’ ”
… But a faster result is only part of the reason the town will finally make the switch. The hand-crank ballot boxes, purchased in 1973 for $295 each, are a challenge to repair and impossible to replace, Wordell said. Larkin Lumber, a local hardware and construction supply store, used to be able to repair the boxes, but the company closed last year. And their manufacturer is also no longer in business, Wordell said. “When they don’t work, it’s not like we can just bring them to anybody,” she said.
Wordell said Hudson will have the new machines ready for town elections next May, and possibly in time for this November’s election.
… Selectman Joseph Durant, who serves as the board’s chairman, said the community had been slow in making the change partly because of controversies and uncertainty surrounding other methods of casting ballots and counting votes, but also because the town’s hand-counting system worked so reliably.