Dysart sticks with voting by mail

by Chad Ingram

Published March 28 2017

Dysart et al voters will cast ballots by mail for the 2018 municipal election.

Councillors for the township decided to stick with the status quo during a March 27 meeting. While they had discussed voting methods for the 2018 election in February they voted to defer a decision until the March meeting in order to gather more information.

A staff report estimated the cost for a vote-by-mail election at $52780 and an electronic election using telephone and Internet voting at approximately $42658.

The report estimated that a combined method election – using Internet telephone and traditional paper ballot boxes – could cost $15000 to $25000 more.

“Anybody want to start the conversation?” Reeve Murray Fearrey asked during Monday’s meeting pointing out the staff recommendation was to go with one or the other – either mail-in ballots or an electronic election.

“Why?” asked Councillor Susan Norcross.

“Cost” said Fearrey.

“That’s one thing” said Norcross who said she was leaning toward the combined method. “Is there anything else? I think we have a split community that’s going to want one or the other.”

The majority of councillors said they preferred to remain with voting by mail.

“I would prefer that we just stay the way it is” said Councillor Walt McKechnie adding he’d heard from a number of constituents that they like the current system.

“I would put a condition on it” Fearrey said. “If we’re going to stay the way it is I think we should say right now that we’re going to go electronic next time.”

“Why would we do that?” Norcross asked. “I’m curious as to why you say that.”

“You’ve got to move forward sometime” said Fearrey. “Right now is now the time to do it? I don’t know. I’ve heard from a lot of people that there’s nothing wrong with the way we’re voting right now.”

The voting method for the 2022 election will ultimately be decided by the next council.

“I think that we should stay with the paper ballot” said Councillor Dennis Casey pointing to the community’s high senior population and emphasizing that seniors vote in greater numbers than young people.

“I think there needs to be a long period of education for the public [before any adoption of electronic voting]” said Councillor Nancy Wood-Roberts.

By the end of the conversation Norcross said she too was fine with remaining with voting by mail for next year’s election.

Algonquin Highlands and Highlands East townships will also be conducting vote-by-mail elections in 2018 while Minden Hills will use the combined method – Internet phone and paper ballot – it used in 2014.

A Minden Hills staff report showed that 74 per cent of voters in the 2014 election voted electronically including a number of residents in their 80s and 90s. The 2018 combined-method election there will cost approximately $63000.

During the 2014 elections Minden Hills had a voter turnout of approximately 45 per cent while Dysart had 44 per cent.