Online voting for the Oct. 27 election will be an option this time around in Greater Sudbury. While it has been used in a few dozen cities in Canada, this will be the first time that local voters won't have to trek to the polls to take part. City clerk Caroline Hallsworth says the theme is, 'Vote Anywhere,' which means you can vote on your laptop or at any polling location in the city.
“It's like the Walmart express lane – you can vote in Azilda, you can vote in New Sudbury, you can vote in the South End, you can vote in Onaping,” Hallsworth said.
Studies have shown there are about 12 significant factors why people don't turn out to vote, she said, and the expanded voting options address some of the bigger ones, she said. For example, bad weather on voting day can affect turnout by as much as 10 per cent. But if you can vote without leaving the house, weather is no longer a factor.
“That's one of the thoughts behind Internet voting,” Hallsworth said. “Committed voters tend to vote in every election (but) for some people, convenience is a huge factor in whether they will vote or not.”
Young voters, in particular, are used to being able to do everything on their smart phones and other online devices. If they know they can vote online, it will increase the chances they will take part. So the city's specially converted election bus will visit colleges and Laurentian University to get the word out.
Before that happens, though, the city will send out voter information packages to everyone on the voters list. To ensure you're on the list, go to www.greatersudbury.ca/inside-city-hall/election-2014, click on the 'for voters' tab and then the 'am I on the voters list?' tab. Enter your name and address, and you will find out immediately if you are registered to vote. If you are not, there's a link to click that will show you how to get on the list.
The voter information packages will be mailed out beginning Sept. 25. You can begin voting in mid-October and anyone who hasn't received their voting information by then should contact the city.
“If they don't have them by the time the advanced polling period begins Oct. 14, they should give us a call, because perhaps they are not on the list,” Hallsworth said. “So now is the time to check.”
Each information package includes a bar code to take to the polling station, as well as a PIN number residents can use to vote online.
However, even if you're not registered to vote come Oct. 27, you can still go to any polling station and take part.
“You can still go and swear an oath on the day of the election and be added to the list at the voting location,” Hallsworth said. “But it significantly speeds things up – for yourself and others – if we don't have to register too many people.”
About one-quarter of voters have used the online option in local elections in Canada, she said, and they're hoping for a similar result here.
“We're certainly strongly encouraging everyone to vote online, since it's the easiest and most convenient way,” she said. “Based on other municipalities, they had about a 25-per-cent turnout. So I would be delighted if 25 per cent of our ballots are cast online.”
Moving to the online, vote-anywhere system was a huge challenge, Hallsworth said, and it took a lot of preparation. But the new system offers residents more ways to take part, while allowing the city to open fewer polling stations.
“Building that first request for proposal was a big, huge piece of work for us,” she said. “So elections have evolved, but they're still a huge amount of work.”
-- You can vote twice in local elections if you own land in a another municipality. For example, you can vote in Greater Sudbury if you live here, as well as in the French River, if you own land there.
-- Advance voting begins Oct. 14, meaning you can cast your ballot online anytime until Oct. 24. The city's election bus will even set up outside a Sudbury Wolves game for anyone who wants to cast a ballot between periods.
-- If you prefer the paper ballot, you can vote on Oct. 18 from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. at five locations in the city: New Sudbury Shopping Centre, Place Bonaventure Mall, Hanmer Valley Shopping Centre, Southridge Mall, and Lively District Secondary School.