Voting method up in the air
By Michael Gennings Simcoe.com March 9 2010
STAYNER – What voting method will Clearview Township residents use for this fall’s municipal election?
That’s a question without an answer at the moment.
Bob Campbell, the township’s clerk, recommended in a report at council last Monday night that mail-in voting is the way to go.
He said mail-in voting – used locally in 2003 and 2006, instead of traditional paper ballot voting at polling stations – eliminates the need for advance polls, proxy votes, the printing and mailing of voter notification cards and polling stations.
Mail-in voting also reduces the number of staff required to work on election day, he said.
But council members didn’t share Campbell’s conviction.
Deputy Mayor Alicia Savage said the clerk’s report lacked any information about what other voting options there were.
“I would like to see what would be entailed for electronic voting,” she said.
Electronic voting typically involves using a computer terminal to cast a ballot. Ward 1 councillor Doug Measures shared Savage’s sentiment about the need for more choices.
“We need to have some more options before we can make a decision about this,” he said, adding after the meeting: “Council is charged with making decisions based on information and it’s important that we have all the alternatives and then staff’s preferred options. What the clerk presented is great – I’m just interested in having more to choose from.”
Ward 4 councillor Thom Paterson said that shifting away from the mail-in ballot system and going to electronic voting might create more work and cost.
He said there would need to be more than one voting station, proxy voting and lots of advance time for people to vote because a number of people don’t live in the township full-time.
Paterson said he doesn’t rule out electronic voting or some other method as a way to go but said council needs to be aware of all of the implications before choosing a method.
“I do worry about making sure everyone has a reasonably easy opportunity to vote,” he said.
Council agreed to defer a decision on what type of voting system to use until Campbell presents a report with other options.
The motion to defer was moved by Ward 7 councillor Shawn Davidson and seconded by Savage.
The report, Campbell said, will be ready for council’s meeting on Mon., March 22.
Campbell said over the next couple weeks he’ll be talking with companies that provide electronic voting equipment in an effort to determine the requirements to go that route and what it would cost.
He’ll also investigate paper ballot voting at polling stations.
He noted that going back to traditional paper ballot voting might be a challenge, saying it could prove hard to find enough people to work part-time at the polling stations.
People who don’t live in the township full-time might not be so keen on the voting method as well, he said, noting mail-in voting has made it easier for these individuals to cast a ballot.
Staff has budgeted $50,000 to run the election this fall.
Campbell said the cost to go with mail-in voting is $16,000. There would be additional expenses in terms of postage, advertising and wages, he said.
He noted in his report last week that Toronto-based DataFix, the firm Clearview used to provide materials for the mail-in process in 2003 and 2006, has agreed to facilitate the election this year, if council does choose to go with that method.
The clerk wasn’t able to give a sense of how much it might cost to go with another voting system.
Wasaga Beach, for the first time, went with electronic voting in 2006 and residents will vote that way again this fall.
The town is leasing 13 machines for $23,000. That amount also covers accessories, training and on-site support.