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Frustration over mail-in ballots mounting

In Innisfil
Oct 18th, 2010

Family unknowingly removed from voters list
By Chris Simon Innisfil Scope October 13 2010
Kevin McMurdo just wants to vote.
However, the 12-year resident still has yet to receive a mail-in ballot kit from the town. He’s called the municipality, and was told his name, along with those of his son and daughter, were accidentally removed from the voters list. The town uses data collected by the independently operated Municipal Property Assessment Corporation to construct its voters list.

But with just over a week to go until Election Day (Oct. 25), the error has left the McMurdo Family with very limited options.
“Now, I’ve got to go out of my way. I’ve got two kids who want to vote, (but) my daughter’s at university, and my son’s not going to drag his butt out of bed. It’s the inconvenience of our town, they don’t service most of the working population that we have,” he said. “If I really want to vote, there’s nowhere I can go (after work). If they can find me to send my tax bills, why couldn’t they find me to send my ballot? I’m fed up with the way this town is run; it’s got to the point where next year, I’m probably moving out of Innisfil. It’s been run with total incompetence.”   
While town staff knew there would be issues with the implementation of vote-by-mail, MPAC provides relatively accurate information, says town clerk Jason Reynar.
In total, the town anticipates about five per cent of MPAC’s data will need to be changed during the election process. Over 230 residents have been added to the voters list so far, since an initial 24,545 ballots were sent out on Sept. 24.
“Having done vote-by-mail once before, town staff were aware that this may be an issue, although MPAC still has the most reliable data,” he said. “To put it in perspective, we anticipate less than five per cent of the data needs to be fixed. But to be proactive about it, we sent out voter notification cards at the beginning of the process. That way, individuals who did not receive it could contact the town and get themselves on the list before the mail out of the actual kits. Many people took advantage of that initial process.”
The cards were mailed several weeks before the ballots were sent. Staff also provided information on the cards through advertisements and the town’s website, said Reynar.
Several candidates also offered to help residents obtain voter kits, through paid ads in local newspapers.
McMurdo says the town should be responsible for correcting issues that arise through the vote-by-mail system. In this case, there’s little reason for his name to be taken off the voters list.
“If they knew, why didn’t they do something about it … and contact the people that were off the list?” He said. “Why was I taken off the list in the first place? There’s got to be something wrong with the system. I didn’t see anything in my mail about voter notification. I knew the election was coming up, and expected to see my ballot in the mail. I had no reason to call them.”
While it is too late to receive a mail-in kit from the town, eligible voters can still cast a ballot. Residents can attend the New Town Hall, located at 2101 Innisfil Beach Road, on weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Oct. 23 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., or Election Day from 8:30 a.m. to 7:59 p.m.
“Earlier in the process, there was an opportunity to have the kit mailed out and (returned), but that time has now passed,” said Reynar. “Completed voter kits may (also) be dropped off at town hall at any time. There is a secure 24-hour drop box near the front entrance that is checked by election officials.”
The town expects voter turnout to be about 46 per cent — similar to the 2006 municipal election, where Innisfil also used a vote-by-mail system. Prior to 2006, traditional paper ballots and hand counting methods were used to conduct municipal elections in the town. However, voter turnout sagged to between 25 and 30 per cent on average. But under the new system, 45.2 per cent of voters cast ballots.
“We have received 5,320 kits through the mail and in the drop box as of Oct. 13,” said Reynar. “We expect that the voter turnout should be very similar to the last election.”
Residents who have received their kits without issue are asked to mail the ballots by Oct. 15, to allow ample time for processing before Election Day. For more information, visit www.innisfil.ca.


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