By Jenn Watt
Published Sept. 25, 2018
The threat of a postal strike this week is yet another flashing sign that it’s time to modernize our voting practices.
Last year, Dysart et al council deliberated about whether to continue with mail-in ballots or switch to internet/telephone voting. Councillors acknowledged that the future was online, but said with a large senior population, it didn’t seem the time was right to make a change.
No one could have predicted a labour dispute would make landfall as this year’s election approached, but it has and it’s making clear how much better a diversified system would be.
In Minden Hills, the municipality is heading into its second election using a blended system of online, telephone and in-person voting. In 2014, they ran their first election with the system and their clerk reported back to council that it was “well-received” with 74 per cent of ballots cast either online or by phone. Only 26 per cent of people chose to vote using a paper ballot.
Those stats were good enough for Minden Hills’ council, which chose to sign up for the same scenario again this year. They’re the only municipality in the county to do so and if a postal strike or lock-out happens, it should have less impact on the vote.
Setting aside the rare circumstances of 2018, it also just makes sense to increase the avenues for voting. Turnout for municipal elections is often quite low, with less than half of eligible voters casting a ballot in the last election. Maybe new voters could be reached if the methods of voting were modernized.
Many of us shop online, bank online and even file our taxes online. It’s not a stretch to add voting to that list.
And for those who aren’t comfortable with internet or phone voting, there’s always the option of voting in person.
Some conversation was had around the Dysart council table last year about the cost of doing a combined internet/phone/in-person system, which would be more expensive for sure, but likely only $10,000 more than the current $53,000 for mail-in only.
The majority of councillors decided it wasn’t time to make the switch just yet.
It’s clear the time has now come.
Congratulations to Hike Haliburton on another fantastic year. As usual, thousands signed up for excursions across the Highlands, taking in scenic vistas and getting up close to the area’s flora and fauna. For those hiking on Friday, there was even some wild weather to contend with.
The hike I took was with geologist John Etches, who told the story of Haliburton’s formation, and the role faults played in creating the lakes and valleys that make this land so beautiful.
Beyond providing a tourist attraction and a celebration of the outdoors, Hike Haliburton also helps us better understand the place we live – through exploration.
Thank you to all of the organizers who put this festival on each year.