Voters will only be able to cast ballots on election day either online or over the phone
KAWARTHA LAKES-Both a former election official and a candidate for council in this fall’s municipal election say they are disappointed and disheartened that voters will not be able enter a polling booth and mark an ‘X’ on a paper ballot the way Canadians have for generations. To the dismay and surprise of some, council had already decided that voters would only be able exercise their democratic right on October 24 either online or by phone.
It is billed as ‘ten days – two ways.’ Voters will be able to cast their ballot starting Oct. 14, ten days before the official election date, but they will not be able to mark an ‘X’ on a paper ballot.
That has not sat well with Ward 6 councillor Ron Ashmore and Dunsford resident Carolle McMullen-Boyce who worked as a deputy returning officer during the last provincial election in May – so she has election official experience. She said the current process discriminates against anyone who struggles with or is not comfortable with technology. She also wanted to remind the people of Kawartha Lakes just how glitches plagued the system three years ago, leaving results not posted for hours, if not days, in some cases.
“People who don’t have the (tech) skills on the phone, and/or don’t have access to a computer are being denied the ultimate form of democracy. We are supposed to be inclusive of everyone. The last municipal election, my father and his wife, my stepmom, tried to use the phone-in ballot and couldn’t figure it out to their satisfaction so they didn’t get to vote,” McMullen-Boyce said. “I managed to do it for myself but it was a bit confusing and by the time I was able to use it, it was too late to go help them.”
McMullen-Boyce started a petition calling for a third voting option – live voting at the polling station – that she said got upwards of 40 signatures from people in the city who agreed with her that the old-school ballot box where you mark your “X” in a private booth. She said she was not impressed at all with the way the mayor and council dealt with their proposal.
“I watched the whole proceeding with council and to me Andy Letham that day – I don’t know if he was just in a bad mood or if that’s the way he always carries on. I’d never watched a full session before and it was all hurry up and get this done and let the next council look after it.”
Kawartha 411 asked Letham, who confirmed again, he’s not running for re-election, to respond to the criticisms.
“The (in-person) voting idea came to council a year ago this past January in a discussion about the overall process for the election. We’ve done mail-in ballots for many years, the mayor said. “Last election we did the Internet/phone voting and there were a few glitches. It happened to the company (we employed) and they had a capacity overload. It was a large online turnout. The integrity of the election results was not compromised. It won’t happen again.”
The mayor disagreed with the accusation that he was heavy handed and rushed the decision to not have balloting done in its traditional way, despite the petition.
”The clerk gave more of an explanation than I did and it came down to it can’t be changed at this point,” the mayor said. “If the councillor was so concerned about the process they should’ve brought it up a year and a half ago when we had this discussion, not two and a half months before the election.”
Councillor Ron Ashmore, who is running for re-election in Ward 6 – the Dunsford area – said he pointed out to council that polling stations will still be open on election day for people to either phone or online vote there – why not give them the option on that day to also be able to go into a booth and mark their paper ballot that way.
“It wasn’t even allowed to be discussed. There is not much I can do about it,” Ashmore said. “It was an opportunity to make people who weren’t comfortable voting by computer to feel comfortable that their vote would count.”
Some 190 municipalities in Ontario are using online voting as their only method to cast ballots in this fall’s municipal elections.