NORTHEAST TOWN—After hearing loud and clear from their constituents, members of Northeast Town council chose not to move forward with a staff recommendation to move to online and telephone voting for the upcoming municipal election this October.
Council officially heard, in writing, from two constituents but had many conversations with members of the community who were not in favour of ditching the current paper ballot system for online and telephone voting. As was reported previously, under the proposed new system, each registered voter would receive a numerical code that would allow them to cast their ballot. Mr. Williamson explained that two polling stations would remain open where a computer could be utilized to vote.
“I had quite a bit of feedback,” said Councillor Dawn Orr. “They (constituents) don’t want it (a change from paper ballots).”
Councillor Bill Koehler said he polled 30 of his constituents, 28 of whom were opposed to the change, including one senior resident who does not own a computer and still uses a rotary phone.
Councillor Laurie Cook said those she spoke with were also not in favour of a move away from paper ballots.
“I think there is an argument to be made for having this, or a hybrid system,” said Councillor Jim Ferguson, who noted that perhaps the time isn’t right now, but he hoped to see a change for the following election as, “the next generation has grown up with this technology and is comfortable with computers.” He said he wouldn’t be voting in favour of the change at this time, but reiterated his hope for a change in the near future.
Councillor Bruce Wood said he agreed with Councillor Ferguson. He had spoken with rural taxpayers who were not opposed to the idea of change.
Councillor Michael Erskine said he was happy that constituents were offered the chance to weigh in on the subject. As one letter-writer had pointed out, there are a great deal of senior citizen voters who wish to use paper ballots, Councillor Erskine noted, adding that he also agreed with Councillor Ferguson that change is inevitable, just not at this point in time.
It was agreed that the Northeast Town would continue to use the mail-in and in-person ballot system for this fall’s election.
Voting methods has been in discussion in other Island municipalities recently, too.
Councils for Billings Township and Central Manitoulin have both given their approval to authorize mail-in ballots for this year’s elections once again.
“I looked at all the options we have and vote by mail allows everyone to vote,” said Billings Councillor Sharon Alkenbrack at a recent meeting.
“Paper ballot voting is great if everyone lived here, but about 60 percent of our eligible voters in the township are seasonal,” said Councillor Sharon Jackson. “Vote by mail works, and this is the method recommended by staff as the best way to move forward.”
Council had the option of conducting the election by traditional paper ballots, vote by mail, telephone voting or internet voting.
Richard Stephens, mayor of Central Manitoulin, told The Expositor that the municipal council has opted, “for vote by mail for the (fall) election. This is the third or fourth time we have done this.”
Assiginack also offers its voters a mail-in ballot option.
No municipalities on Manitoulin currently offer online or telephone voting.