By Angelica Ingram
Published March 7, 2017
While it may seem like the 2018 municipal election is still a long way away, plans are already in motion for finalizing aspects such as voting methods to be used come next fall.
Earlier this year the municipality of Dysart (and others in the county) opted not to use a ranked ballot method in 2018, which makes the most sense for small municipalities such as the ones in Haliburton County.
However, now Dysart has a choice to make about whether or not to adopt electronic voting, that being using the Internet/telephone, or go with the tried and true method of vote by mail, which it has used for the past few elections.
Earlier this year Minden Hills council decided they would follow in the same footsteps as the 2014 election, where the township used both the vote by mail and electronic voting option, allowing constituents multiple options.
A lively discussion over the matter was held at last week’s Dysart council meeting, with council clearly split down the middle.
Some councillors believed the vote by mail option made the most sense for the municipality, considering the local demographics, while others thought it was time to embrace the future and make it easier for other demographics, such as seasonal residents, to place their vote.
A cost comparison between the two methods showed an approximate $10,000 savings between the two methods, with Internet/telephone coming in at about $43,000, while vote by mail would cost around $53,000.
However, what was clearly missing from the conversation was a discussion about having both methods available to voters.
While Dysart clerk Cheryl Coulson reported that having both options would cost an additional $15,000 to $25,000, this is not entirely known until the numbers are hammered out. For the township of Minden Hills it cost an additional $13,000 to provide both options and Coulson did say there might be additional savings for the Internet/telephone option if multiple municipalities in the same county use the same provider.
However, it shouldn’t strictly be about the money, and council came to that conclusion as well. The matter should come down to what’s best for the voters, and therefore democracy, and not the bottom line.
And I couldn’t agree more, which is why the most obvious option would be to have vote by mail and Internet/telephone available.
With a highly seasonal population, as well as one with a significant number of seniors, why not provide something that appeals to everyone? And with the younger population using the Internet more and more, this could be a positive way to engage a demographic that often feels overlooked by politicians.
An informal poll conducted last week on Twitter showed that 60 per cent of respondents were in favour of a combined mail and Internet/telephone option, compared to a much lower percentage who voted in favour of only using Internet/telephone or only using vote by mail.
It is important to note that each voting method provides accessible options to voters who require it.
There’s no doubt that the Internet is the way of the future and the municipality of Dysart is going to have to accept that sooner or later.
In the meantime, a hybrid system makes the most sense for all involved, politicians and voters alike.