| Nov 16, 2006


Feature Article - November 16, 2006

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Feature Article - November 16, 2006

The old order changes

by Wilma Kenny

This year, no one in South Frontenac drew an X on a ballot. Under the direction of CAO Gord Burns, council introduced a new system of electronic voting that allowed electors to cast their votes by computer or telephone.

There were several advantages to this system: it allowed people to vote at any time, and voting could be done at home, an advantage for out-of-township residents and shut-ins.

Electronic results were available within minutes of the polls closing, and there were no questionable or spoiled ballots.

What of those without computer or telephone? They had the option of coming in to the township hall during work hours the week before Election Day, or to a polling station in their district the day of the election, where voter assistance was available.

Letters

The biggest disadvantage may have been voters’ discomfort with change, particularly if they weren’t familiar with computers. Some feared that their vote would not be confidential. Burns said that the votes were not connected to the voters: although the township office had a running record of who had voted, no one knew what the results were until after the polls closed. Several constituents made a point of calling the township office to report their surprise and relief at how quick and easy the process of voting had been. A few individuals received more than one ‘ballot’ with PIN-number. However, the voter information clearly stated that it is against the law to vote more than once in the same municipality, and the township received a daily list of names of people who had voted.

Cost? Gord Burns reported that the cost was comparable to or less than the mail-in, and much cheaper than the traditional ballot-box system.

Some things were lost. Traditionally, supporters ‘drew’ for candidates: provided an election-day taxi service for electors who were likely to vote for ‘their man’. No longer need one get time off from work to vote. And there was none of the drama of waiting for hours, watching as each poll came in, and candidates’ positions shifted on the tally-boards.

The new system functioned well, much to the relief of Gord Burns.

However, one of the hopes for the new system was that it would increase voter turnout, but this did not take place. Voter numbers were down in all districts of South Frontenac save Portland : the greatest drop being in Loughborough district, which recorded 858 fewer voters than three years ago.

(Editor’s note: the drop in turnout in South Frontenac mirrored a drop in two other townships that used the same electronic voting system. In Tay Valley , there was a 40% turnout this time around, as opposed to 47% in 2003 with a mail-in system. In Addington Highlands, there was a 32% turnout this year, as opposed to 38% in 2003 with mail in. So, South Frontenac, with a 43% turnout as compared to 50% in 2003, was not alone.)

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