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City adds downtown polling station

BY CRAIG GILBERT [email protected] The long march to democracy has been shortened for many seniors in the Ste. Anne Road area. City officials have agreed to open a polling station at Christ the King Centre on Elgin Street.
BY CRAIG GILBERT

The long march to democracy has been shortened for many seniors in the Ste. Anne Road area. City officials have agreed to open a polling station at Christ the King Centre on Elgin Street.

Mayoral candidate, Dave Courtemanche, who is a member of the current city council, said he met with city staff last week and convinced them to open the polling station at Christ the King.

There are six seniors complexes in the Ste. Anne?s area. Residents of that area without access to a vehicle would have had to climb the over 100 stairs linking the road with Marymount Academy to vote at the station there.

Mayoral candidate, Brian R. Gatien, first raised the access issue in early September.

?It never should have got to this point,? Gatien said. ?The polling station was taken away from them, quietly and without notice.

?I?m very upset that another candidate has today taken credit for reinstating this poll,? he stated.

?A simple problem like this should not require someone on council to get a solution, but I guess it shows how everyone at city hall is tied up in red tape.?

Mayoral candidate Paul Marleau finds it curious that Christ the King is the only complex on that strip to have a voting station, given that Courtemanche?s father sits on the centre?s board.

?Courtemanche and this council has eliminated 270 voting stations and the only one that?s been re-established happens to be where his father is on the board of directors,? Marleau said. ?What about the others? Why not re-establish all 270??

According to Marleau, the closure of the polling stations in that and all other areas of the city is a direct attack on democracy.

?It?s a crime that the city is closing seniors? polling stations to save a few dollars,? Marleau said.

Ward 1 candidate Terry Kett has also spoken out against the poll closures.

?[Seniors] are hurt and embarrassed their right to vote has in effect been taken away,? Kett said. ?Many are veterans or widows of veterans who fought for our freedom in the Second World War and have never missed a vote.?

Marleau said the move to eliminate the area?s stations will make for mass confusion that will result in fewer seniors voting.

According to the Older Adults Centre, seniors make up 65 per cent of Sudbury?s voter turnout.

The City of Greater Sudbury will have about 75 per cent fewer polling stations for the Nov. 10 municipal election
than it did in 2000.

This in comparison to the over 300 polling stations that were up on Oct. 2 for the provincial election.

City clerk and returning officer Thom Mowry said the move to eliminate the vast majority of the city?s polling
stations was not entirely a cost saving measure.

In fact, he said, many outlying areas, like Meadowbrooke and the Elizabeth Centre in Blezzard Valley, have new polling stations to better serve them.

Mowry said Sudbury had lower elector to polling subdivision ratios than Hamilton, Ottawa or Chatham-Kent.

Sudbury, he said, in fact had more subdivisions than Ottawa. Where Hamilton averaged 817 voters per subdivision, Sudbury averaged 110. Since the outlying areas typically have higher turnout than the more densely populated old city of Sudbury, that number can be considered lower.

Further, the new vote tabulation machines the city will be using with its optical scan ballots can process in the region of 5,000 votes in a reasonable amount of time.

Mowry, in naming a list of Ontario cities, said Greater Sudbury prior to this election was perhaps the only city still using paper ballots.

Electoral ward managers and the transition board at different times have all agreed there are too many polling stations in the city for the number of voters who come out in election day.

Voter turnout in the 2000 municipal election was 44 per cent.

A questionnaire distributed to polling stations in the last election garnered about 4,000 responses, Mowry said.

This year?s questionnaire asks whether voters got their notification card (with the bus tickets attached), whether they used the ticket, and whether they would have voted had there not been an advance poll.

Mowry said his office understands the reduction in polling locations would be difficult for many voters.

That is why, he said, for the first time the city sent out bus tickets good on election day and advance polling week.

Another first is the full week of advance polling that began on Monday and continues until Saturday.

Polls are open at Tom Davies Square and citizen service centres in each ward. Ward 5 residents can cast their
advance ballot at the Solski Memorial Library.

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