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Tay council considering additional voting methods

A combination of in-person, mail-in, and online voting methods to be considered once staff reports on costs and advantages, disadvantages of each method
2021-02-24-Ted-Walker
Mayor Ted Walker, and other council members, want to consider a combination of voting methods.

Tay residents could have multiple ways to cast their ballots in next year's election.

Council, at its recent meeting, was leaning toward a combination of mail-in, online and in-person methods for the 2022 municipal election. However, no decisions were made since a staff report is still pending.

There is no urgency around the matter, said Cyndi Bonneville, township clerk.

"The bylaw to authorize is required on or before May 1 in the year of the election," she said, adding, "staff is recommending council make a decision well in advance of the new year so staff can budget and implement the method council approves."

Coun. Jeff Bumstead had questions around the problems faced by online voting systems.

"Thinking back to the last election, we got our results but other municipalities that had online voting did not. Any thoughts on that?" he asked staff. 

Daryl O'Shea, general manager, corporate services manager of technology services, said the issue then was due to the supplier.

"They had a third-party arrangement with a data centre hosting provider where they had purchased unlimited bandwidth and capacity, so they could have millions of people connect to their server at the same time," he said. "Unfortunately, the configuration switch at that facility had a bandwidth limit in place and there was a technical configuration error. I'm most certain that error won't happen (again), maybe different problems may happen in the future.

"We do use similar providers and rely on internet technologies to do tabulation, so even with non-online voting methods, we could run into circumstances causing delays."

A staff report outlines that voting by mail costs $56,238, an amount that includes vote-by-mail kits, software support and postage. Other costs, including advertising and labour, were not listed in the report. The report was also missing costs around online/telephone voting.

Further to a costing request for online voting, Mayor Ted Walker said, council could consider a combination of approaches.

"The results of (a recent) survey were in favour of in-person and online," he said. "We can even do a combination where we could have internet voting as our advanced vote, right up to and including election day. We could also have opportunity for people to come in and vote in-person at the polling station if they want."

Coun Paul Raymond agreed with the combination approach.

"I don't think we're going to have one voting method," he said. "I think we're going to have to accommodate different groups of people and what they're accustomed to. One thing the pandemic has provided is a lot more use with technology. People are a lot more comfortable with it"

The report listed some pros and cons of the mail-in and telephone methods.

Vote-by-mail

Pros

  • no proxies
  • anytime, anywhere voting
  • audit trail/provision for recount as paper composite ballots used
  • longer voting period, eliminates advance vote
  • elector may drop off ballot to central location
  • accessibility - ability to vote from home enables voters with mobility issues to vote

Cons

  • reliance on Canada Post to ensure mail out, with ballot, was accurate and that the return of ballots are received through system on time
  • roles of candidates/scrutineers changes
  • unsupervised voting 
  • kits may be stolen and get into another’s hands (mail fraud)

Telephone/Internet voting:

Pros

  • accurate count 
  • easy access to vote
  • no voting locations, reduced staffing requirements
  • anytime, anywhere voting 
  • eliminates traditional advance vote
  • no proxies 
  • results within 10 to 20 minutes on election day
  • no over votes 
  • audit trail 
  • longer voting period (10 days)
  • ability to vote from computer, tablet, iPhone, android phone or cellphone
  • no tabulators, results delivered electronically 
  • no subjectivity relating to count/recount

Cons

  • unsupervised voting
  • voter card, with login & password, may be stolen and get into another person’s hands (mail fraud)
  • roles of candidates/ scrutineers change
  • internet connectivity may be a problem
  • long distance charges to the municipality for 1-800 number



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Mehreen Shahid

About the Author: Mehreen Shahid

Mehreen Shahid covers municipal issues in Cambridge
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