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Electronic-only for voting in municipal election

City council decided last year to ditch the paper ballot, saving $500K in the process
As the result of a 7-6 vote last year, residents headed to the polls Oct. 17 will cast an electronic ballot in the municipal election.. (File photo)

As the result of a 7-6 vote last year, residents headed to the polls Oct. 17 will cast only electronic ballots in the municipal election.

While paper ballots aren't an option, residents can still go to voting locations on election day, where anyone uncomfortable with online voting can receive help.

The city was introduced to Internet voting in 2014, and while it was well received, there were issues at some polling stations, especially the Caruso Club, where voters stood in long lines before getting to cast a ballot.

However, those issues were chalked up largely to the two referendum questions four years ago, as well as some technical issues.

That election gave residents the option of voting online ahead of election day, or casting paper ballots the day of the vote. But last May, councillors heard that the original RFP for voting equipment included options for a both a paper and online voting system, but the bid came in $500,000 higher than it was in 2014.

The lowest bid for online and paper ballots in 2014 was $391,061.23. For this election, however, the lowest bid was $937,546.04, mainly because the cost of paper ballot tabulator equipment had tripled.

So they recommended an option to move to a fully online vote, with citizen services centres, libraries and the election bus being used to help voters on election day.

Ward 9 Coun. Deb McIntosh said at the time that online voting is “an evolution” of modern elections.

“We've gone from paper, to paper and online and this is the next step,” McIntosh said. “There is a tradition on voting day to be able to go some place. Some people wait until that day.”

But Ward 5 Coun. Bob Kirwan said during last May's debate many older residents prefer the paper ballot, and that getting out to vote is a big deal for them.

“We've got a lot of people in this community that are over the age of 65,” Kirwan said. “A lot of the adults who are in their 80s and 90s, they look forward to paper and pencil.”

Kevin Fowke, the city's GM of corporate services, said the only thing missing will be the pencil and paper. 

“Option 2 is meant to mimic that process where, you do go to a voting location on voting day, there will be, likely, a city staff person there to assist you,” Fowke said.

But Ward 12 Coun. Joscelyne Landry-Altmann said this is no way to treat the residents “who have paid taxes the longest.

“For them it's a privilege,” she said. “To take that option away from them is disrespectful.”

Ward 6 Coun. Rene Lapierre agreed that no one likes change.

“It's new,” Lapierre said. “People hate change, but we have to adapt to it ... But whether they put their 'X' on a tablet or a piece of paper, going to the polling station is still something they can do if they choose to. And it will help with cost savings.”

While concerns were expressed about voter fraud using online ballots, former city clerk Caroline Hallsworth said at the time that voter fraud is an issue no matter what form of voting is used, and that people have been investigated in Sudbury in every election in recent memory.

“Anyone who received two voter cards, if you use the second card, you are committing an offence,” Hallsworth said. “And we referred a couple of cases to the police in the 2014, 2010 and 2006 election.”

She said the voting software is capable of detecting different forms of irregularities, for example, someone voting for their entire family.

“In Halifax in 2010, a man was successfully prosecuted for doing just that,” she said. “It's based on multiple votes being cast in a short period of time from the same IP address … It was addressed as a criminal charge.”

For more information on Election 2018, the city has created a special section on their website.


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