Algonquin Highlands is opting to use internet and telephone voting for the 2022 election, moving away from vote-by-mail.

Council unanimously approved the move May 6 and authorized staff to proceed with a joint request for proposals for the method. It is expected to cost the township $30,000.

Staff recommended the methodology, citing cost-effectiveness, a longer voting period, increased participation and preventing gatherings amidst the pandemic.

Mayor Carol Moffatt said it is something council has considered in the past.

“Our previous conversations were around sort of not being ready,” Moffatt said.

“Looks like the time has come.”

Clerks from all four County townships met to discuss the issue, according to AH clerk Dawn Newhook. The methodology is being brought to all local municipalities, with Dysart et al also opting for the internet/phone voting and Minden Hills going for a hybrid model.

Under the method, voters will receive an information package including a unique passcode. They then either use a website or call in to use a touch-tone menu to cast their vote.

Deputy mayor Liz Danielsen asked about having an option for holdouts who prefer a written ballot, but Newhook said that a hybrid model is “labour intensive.”

“It’s very costly. You need two sets of procedures,” Newhook said. “Hiring staff is challenging, so the recommendation is to go with internet/telephone alone.”

Coun. Jennifer Dailloux said she supported the move.

“Especially due to the number of seasonal residents we have,” she said. “Some of the other methods are not appropriate for our township.”

She asked about issues with website crashes other jurisdictions experienced in the last election. Newhook said the RFP would address it and providers would conduct load tests.

“Any RFP that would be issued … it would be focused on providing information about the security and broadband and backup,” Newhook replied. “What they would propose as an alternative method should something go wrong.”

The projected cost is more than the $19,000 pricetag for the 2018 election, though Newhook said the limited number of races drove down the price that year. Three of the five council positions were acclaimed.

Clerks plan to issue a joint RFP with each of the townships that agree to take part.

“I’m really pleased to see the clerks are working so much more closely together,” Danielsen said. “It’s good to see this consolidated recommendation.”

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