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Township Investigates Electronic Voting

January 12, 2010

Elizabethtown- Kitley Township voters may get the chance to cast their votes electronically this coming election.

Council determined at its regular meeting Monday night to have township staff do costing on both telephone and Internet voting.

“This is a pure accessibility issue,” township administrator-clerk Yvonne Robert told council.

“This way you can (vote) by telephone, Internet or paper (casting a ballot) up to eight o’clock (election) night,” said Robert.

The Association of Municipal Managers, Clerks and Treasurers of Ontario (AMCTO) recommends municipalities incorporate more than one method of casting a ballot.

In her report to council, Robert noted how alternative forms of voting provide the voter with the opportunity to vote anywhere, anytime.

Visually impaired voters can make use of telephone voting and those with a hearing impairment can use the Internet to “vote with little or no assistance,” noted Robert.

Having the flexibility also accommodates students and people away on business, as well as snowbirds.

Electronic voting also eliminates the need for the proxy process.

Paper ballots would still be available at the township office, as well as at the three nursing homes in the township and the Brockville Mental Health Centre.

For those choosing to vote electronically, packages which include personal identification numbers (PINs) would be mailed out early, but the system would not permit voting prior to the determined poll-opening period, which is from Oct. 15 to election day, Oct. 25.

“With this type of voting it would be five to seven days before the election,” Robert said.

Councillor John Johnston said the new telephone and Internet options would be an improvement to mail-in voting done by the township in the past.

“You’d go door to door (campaigning) and people would say they had already voted,” Johnston said.

There was a large reduction in voter participation in the 2006 election of just over 25 per cent, Robert said. In both 2000 and 2003 when the vote-by-mail system was used, participation rates were 51 and 44 per cent respectively.

“Since the introduction of alternative voting methods, statistics have revealed that voter participation increases when voters have a choice in the method of voting,” Robert said.

“I think it is a great idea,” Councillor Susan Prettejohn said, but she cautioned there should be a lot of publicity so that people are aware of the options.

“That’s why I’m bringing it to council now,” said Robert.

Councillor Eleanor Renaud wondered if older residents would resist the new forms of casting their ballots.

Mayor Jim Pickard, however, said more and more people of all ages are using telephone and online banking, including seniors. There is reason to believe they will welcome one or both new methods of voting.

Renaud also asked to have a polling station at the Toledo township office. This option will also be investigated, Robert said.

“We’ll have to look into it,” Robert said, noting there may be staffing concerns.

Many municipalities have starting using alternative voting methods of mail, telephone and Internet. In this region, Edwardsburgh-Cardinal and Augusta Townships used a combination of electronic and paper ballots during the 2006 election.

North Grenville Township has already approved Internet and telephone voting for the upcoming election. An estimate established by North Grenville put the cost at approximately $40,000.

Article ID# 2257666

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