Dysart considers internet and telephone voting
|By Alex Coop - Staff Writer | March 9, 2017|
The Municipality of Dysart has used the vote by mail method for the last three elections, but councillors are again looking at a combination of Internet and telephone voting for next year’s municipal election.
During a Feb. 27 meeting, councillors discussed the topic at length, but couldn’t come to a decision.
Reeve Murray Fearrey asked councillors to vote, but when it became clear there was still some confusion regarding how Internet/telephone voting works, the item was deferred to March 27.
Clerk Cheryl Coulson’s report cited pros and cons for both systems, in addition to estimated costs.
Internet and telephone voting provides a longer period and gives voters a choice of two methods that deliver immediate results. However, unreliable Internet may slow down the system during last-minute voting, the report says.
Voting by mail relies heavily on accurate voting lists being distributed to townships.
Voting by Internet
Voters get a voter’s information package with a unique personal numeric passcode. When they log onto the election website they’re required to enter their PIN and answer a security question, such as their birth date.
Voters call a toll-free number and enter their PIN. They can then access a touch tone menu to cast their vote.
Based on the total eligible electors in 2014 (13,331) voting by mail would cost the township about $52,780, while the Internet and telephone just under $43,000. Dysart’s election expenses were $55,048 in 2014.
Deputy Reeve Andrea Roberts said it was worth looking at Internet/telephone voting.
“Four years ago we said we weren’t sure … a lot has changed in four years,” she said. “Almost every person I know has a Smartphone or an iPad. I would vote in favour of doing this.”
Coun. Walt McKechnie was adamant about keeping the system the same.
Fearrey was concerned about seniors, whom he said largely rely on the vote by mail option.
He also cited the near-identical voter turnout of around 45 per cent for both Dysart and Minden Hills during the 2014 election.
Minden Hills used both telephone/Internet voting in addition to the traditional vote by ballot, costing the township more than $58,000.
A report filed by Minden Hills clerk Dawn Newhook Feb. 9, says it was unknown how the public would respond to the new voting system and whether or not the public would have strong access to the Internet, which is why the traditional ballot option was made available in 2014. That same report also points out that 74 per cent voted by Internet or telephone (2,765 Internet and 723 phone) and only 26 per cent (1,228 people) voted by paper ballots.
About 70 per cent of seniors aged 60-90 used the Internet or telephone to vote.
Coulson’s report said if councillors decide to use Internet/telephone voting and include traditional paper ballots, it would cost an additional $15,000 - $25,000 depending on whether or not tabulators are used to count the ballots.
But whichever option is chosen, council will have to ensure it’s accessible to the public, Coulson said after the meeting.
In Algonquin Highlands, which votes by mail, there was only an election for Ward 1 and Ward 3. Voter turnout was 28 per cent and 45 per cent, respectively.
Highlands East also votes by mail and in 2014, had a voter turnout of just over 40 per cent. Council recently decided to vote by mail with tabulators during the 2018 election.
ALEX COOP is a reporter for The Highlander.