By Chad Ingram
Algonquin Highlands residents will be able to cast their votes by telephone or using the internet for the 2022 municipal election.
Councillors for the township made that decision during a May 6 online meeting after receiving a staff report from clerk Dawn Newhook, recommending that council endorse the two methods for next year’s election.
There will also be an accessible voting portal set up at the Algonquin Highlands administrative office on North Shore Road for those who require it, along with staff assistance.
As Newhook’s report noted, a joint meeting of the clerks of Haliburton County’s four lower-tier municipalities resulted in each of the clerks taking the same recommendation back to their respective councils. The report noted that benefits of internet and telephone voting include, among others, a longer voting period, a potential increase in voter participation, the potential to engage younger voters, as well as the ability to vote from anywhere at any time.
The last few elections in Algonquin Highlands have been conducted using mail-in paper ballots.
“We have talked about this in the past,” said Mayor Carol Moffatt. “This is not the first time this discussion about moving forward for voting methods has landed at this table, and I think previous conversations were sort of around not being ready. And it looks like the time has come.”
The estimated cost to conduct a telephone/internet election in Algonquin Highlands is $30,000, and the township has money in reserves to cover the expenditure.
“I absolutely support this in principle, 100 per cent, especially due to the number of seasonal residents we have,” said Councillor Jennifer Dailloux.
“I think those two option will give everyone an options,” said Councillor Julia Shortreed.
Deputy Mayor Liz Danielsen said she thought there would be some residents who’d still prefer a mail-in paper ballot.
“So there was no appetite whatsoever by the clerks to do any kind of combination of voting?” Danielsen asked.
While the option of a hybrid voting method had been included in the report, Newhook said it would be very labour-intensive and costly, involving two sets of procedures and likely the hiring of support staff.
Moffatt and Danielsen said it was good to see a collaborative effort between the four townships on voting methods, and a joint request for proposals will be sent out for a service provider.
The Township of Minden Hills was the first of the county’s four townships to implement internet and telephone voting in 2014, and continues to offer a paper ballot option as well.