By Angelica Ingram
Published Feb. 28 2017
A debate into what voting methods to use for the upcoming municipal election was had around the table on Feb. 27 at the regular meeting of Dysart et al council.
Clerk Cheryl Coulson presented a report on the options available to the municipality which include traditional vote by mail or electronic voting which is done through the Internet and telephone.
In past elections Dysart has opted to use vote by mail and for the 2014 election decided to use tabulators to help count the ballots.
Coulson said there are advantages to both methods and that the municipality will be using tabulators again for the 2018 election. Both voting methods provide accessible options to voters.
In the 2014 election Minden Hills opted to use both the vote by mail and Internet/telephone methods and found great success with this said Coulson.
In the 2014 election Minden Hills had a voter turnout of approximately 45 per cent while Dysart had 44 per cent. According to Coulson more than 70 per cent of voters in Minden Hills used the Internet/telephone method to cast their ballot.
According to Coulson’s report to council the vote by mail method will cost approximately $52780 while the Internet/telephone method will cost approximately $42658.
“If council chooses to proceed with Internet/telephone voting and include traditional voting (ballot) on election day similar to Minden Hills I estimate it will cost an additional $15000 – $25000 depending on whether or not a manual count was conducted or if tabulators were used” wrote Coulson in her staff report. “Council should also take into consideration that using a combination of voting methods for the 2018 election can not only be costly but requires much more staff/election workers will be labour intensive will require two separate types of training and extensive advertising will be required to explain all the voting options.”
Coulson did include in her report that for Internet/telephone voting reduced pricing is available for municipalities in the same county using the same provider.
Minden Hills has already opted to use the same method they did in the 2014 election for 2018 going with Internet/telephone and vote by mail.
Dysart Reeve Murray Fearrey said he thought the municipality should go another term without the Internet/telephone option sticking to vote by mail.
Other councillors did not agree saying this was the way of the future.
“I think a lot has changed in four years” said Deputy-reeve Andrea Roberts adding many residents now use the Internet for a lot of things such as banking.
Councillor Susan Norcross believed introducing Internet/telephone options might capture more seasonal residents.
“Maybe but people get a ballot in the mail and often don’t return it” said Fearrey.
Councillor Nancy Wood-Roberts asked about elderly residents and if they would still be able to get assistance.
Coulson said they would be which would be done through the use of a privacy screen.
However Fearrey was concerned those requiring assistance would have their votes seen.
“As long as people can still get assistance I’m ok with either” said Wood-Roberts.
While there was some discussion around the cost benefits of one method over the other councillors agreed the issue shouldn’t be about the money but about what’s best for constituents.
Coulson said council needs to make a decision by May 1 2017 for the 2018 election.
Councillors began taking a vote on the matter however some weren’t ready to make up their mind.
Fearrey suggested they defer the item to the March council meeting and gather more information before making a decision.