Neosho council's switch to electronic voting to require election

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Jan. 7—NEOSHO, Mo. — The Neosho City Council's hope to upgrade meeting technology to an electronic board that displays votes will require approval from voters.

The council on Tuesday gave initial approval to placing an issue on the ballot that would alter a part of the city's charter that details how council members are to vote on matters. The change would specifically allow electronic means of recording votes, and remove a requirement for votes to be given orally.

The initial approval was earned with a 5-0 vote. The matter is expected to be discussed for final approval during the council's next meeting, on Jan. 18. If approved, it will appear on the April 5 ballot.

It comes on the heels of a decision last month to upgrade the city's website and meeting software. The council approved on an emergency basis two contracts with CivicPlus worth a combined $33,843.

The meeting software portion of that contract, worth $11,950, includes a number of upgrades intended to streamline the process of developing meeting agendas. The most visible portion of that contract will be live voting during council meetings — instead of a roll call vote conducted verbally, council members will cast votes using buttons at their stations, and the results of those votes will be displayed on a readerboard in council chambers.

Also in that contract is an improvement of how city council meetings are live broadcast. City council meetings are currently broadcast live via Zoom and Facebook Live.

The new system is likely to be similar to the one used by Joplin City Council, which was also developed by CivicPlus.

City Attorney Jordan Paul said the ballot measure will help clean up the city's procedures for taking votes. It was filed in response to a concern voiced during the previous meeting by council member Richard Davidson.

The charter currently requires roll call votes to be taken orally, with the names of council members read alphabetically, then rotated with each successive vote. The ballot proposal would remove that provision, yet still require four affirmative votes for a measure's passage. This section of the city charter was amended last year to accommodate the increase in size of the council from five to seven members.

"I agree (with Davidson) that it would be cleaner to amend the language," Paul said during the meeting. "I personally found that unusual in the charter. It's a level of detail you usually see in an ordinance or resolution. I agree we need to eliminate it if we are going to proceed with electronic voting."

In other meeting business, new fire Chief Aaron Houk was appointed as the city's emergency management director. The holder of that position works with the city manager on emergency action plans, and works during large-scale events where emergency response is required.

Houk succeeds former Chief Jim Ledford, who retired from the position last month.

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