Saint-Thomas, Ont. –
The Town of St. Thomas, Ont. will drop in-person voting for the October 2022 municipal elections.
“Internet and telephone voting will allow our constituents to vote anywhere, anywhere, 24 hours a day, at their convenience,” said Maria Konefal, City Clerk and Returning Officer for St. Thomas.
In the 2018 municipal election, St. Thomas used a hybrid voting system. During the advance poll, voters could only vote by telephone or the Internet. On polling day, only in-person votes were allowed.
In total, 10,218 voters voted with 55.7% by paper ballot, 41.1% by Internet and 3.1% by telephone. The turnout was 35.9 percent.”We think we’ve seen in other communities and our own that using the Internet and voting by phone will increase turnout,” said St. Thomas Mayor Joe Preston. “We also talked about using some of our more current polling stations for certain kiosks. Rather than voting on your phone from your home or computer, you can go to a public place and someone will be there to vote on your phone. help you at the kiosk with the iPad or call there. “
However, not everyone thinks this is the best practice.
“Convenience is not a principle of electoral law,” said Aleksander Essex, a professor at Western University specializing in cybersecurity.
“Online voting in Ontario municipalities remains a source of controversy in this province, but also internationally. In the last election, 43 Ontario municipalities saw the election website go down on election night, and to my knowledge none of them had a back-up plan. They therefore had to invoke emergency powers to extend the voting period. “
Although it did not have a back-up plan in 2018, St. Thomas was not one of the 43 municipalities with Internet problems on election night. Essex is also concerned that a third-party private company counting the ballots could raise controversy over the outcome.
“When you go like a school or a church, you put a piece of paper in a ballot box, and at the end of the night, the scrutineer counts it in front of all the candidates’ representatives. This is not what is happening. here, ”Essex explained.“The ballots are sent to a server owned by a private company and then a result comes out that the clerk announces correctly, and that’s just not appropriate for a democratic election. And as we’ve seen in the United States, you know, you didn’t even do anything wrong to have controversy over the outcome, ”he said. “So what we need to do is get to a place where we can actually defend the election results and they’re robust against, you know, conspiracy theories or real concerns about losing candidates. “
Mayor Preston is not affected, saying: “The people who run the system tell us we have no concerns. , so we will go all the way.
The new format will also result in a small saving. Konefal says they will save money on equipment, the vote tabulators used for paper ballots have passed their lifespan and will no longer be needed.
“We won’t have to pay for maintenance or buy new ones,” Konefal said. “We will save about $ 16,000 for this upcoming election because we would still be able to use tabulators. We chose a postal voting option because for that particular option we would need to use more staff in order to count the ballots on election night proper. ”