By Angelica Ingram
Published March 16 2017
Councillors in Algonquin Highlands have opted to stick with the vote-by-mail option for the 2018 municipal election.
The topic of voting methods sparked a lengthy discussion at the March 9 council meeting where councillors weighed the pros and cons of sticking with a traditional method or embracing Internet/telephone voting.
Chief administrative officer Angie Bird costed out the two options in her staff report saying using vote-by-mail would equate to approximately $23000 in total while Internet/telephone would be about $27200.
Neither estimate includes costs for staffing wages supplies etc. Bird did not cost out the option of having both vote-by-mail and Internet/telephone as an option.
“If council chooses to proceed with Internet/telephone voting I would not recommend including traditional voting (ballot) on election day. Algonquin Highlands has not held a traditional ballot vote since 2000 and conducting a combination of two voting methods for the 2018 Election can not only be costly (approximately $10000) but requires more staff/election workers will be labour intensive and will require two separate types of training” wrote Bird in her report.
Algonquin Highlands has used vote-by-mail for the past four elections and does not use tabulators.
“We haven’t used paper ballots here since 2000” said Reeve Carol Moffatt. “I wouldn’t recommend that.”
The voting issue is one that has sparked debate across the county with Minden Hills opting to use both Internet/telephone and paper ballots as it did in 2014.
Dysart et al councillors discussed voting methods at their Feb. 27 council meeting but deferred the decision to the end of March.
Bird said choosing the Internet/telephone option still meant there would be a voting station at the Stanhope municipal office however only at that location.
Deputy-reeve Liz Danielsen said one of her concerns with telephone voting was that “there’s nothing to see.”
Moffatt said it was a pretty expensive decision to offer both paper and electronic voting and that she would like to see a move towards using Internet/telephone.
Councillor Brian Lynch said he wanted to make sure whatever they decided on didn’t impact voter turnout.
“So should we spend more money to have everything?” asked Moffatt.
Danielsen didn’t want to take on the cost of doing both saying it was “so expensive.”
Councillor Lisa Barry said she was in favour of sticking with vote-by-mail pointing to her father as an example of someone who would struggle with voting electronically.
Lynch asked what would happen in the case of a power outage if the municipality chose to use electronic voting to which Bird said individuals would have to come in person to the municipal office to place their vote.
Councillor Marlene Kyle said she preferred vote-by-mail as voters would have a ballot in front of them that they could see and touch.
Councillors agreed that the option of Internet/telephone could be something they look at down the road.