Writer concerned about proposed Northeast Town vote plan

Move to online and telephone ballots will present too many challenges

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is an open letter to Northeast Town Mayor Al MacNevin and members of council and has been reprinted here at the author’s request.

To Mayor and Council:

I am writing to you in regards to ballot counting in the upcoming municipal election.

NEMI is a small municipality in which the manual counting of paper ballots is in no way a burden. Having acted as scrutineer for NEMI municipal elections, I am fully aware that the process for tallying votes and declaring elected officials is quick, efficient and well organized. Those who participate in the counting of ballots understand their role, and rarely is there any challenge about the validity of a ballot.

Just about anyone can count or scrutinize paper ballots. There are mechanisms in place to appoint scrutineers so that multiple trusted individuals, along with town staff, can have eyes on the process to ensure the accuracy of the count.

I have acted as scrutineer in numerous elections, at all levels. I can fully understand the paper ballot process. I can challenge ballots, and ensure that ballots are properly assigned to the correct candidate. Just about anybody can. However, when it comes to electronic voting and counting, there are very few people who are capable and qualified to check the validity and accuracy of computer programs. I feel as though I am being expected to trust something that I don’t understand, as most don’t, that could greatly affect me and my community. I will have no means available to challenge the electronic system. When I am told to just trust something, especially in the political arena, I usually don’t.

Paper ballots should be cast at an assigned location on election day. Advanced polling stations must be made available. Mobile ballot stations must be made available to long term care homes and hospitals. Mail-in ballots must be requested in special circumstances only.

Telephone and internet voting are far too easy to manipulate, by those who would coerce or misrepresent. It also lowers, in my opinion, the threshold of an informed decision. For those who can, making the journey to an election poll is of significant importance. If they are willing to do this, in my opinion, then some level of interest and dedication has occurred.

The importance of spoiled ballots is highlighted at the ballot box as well. A citizen can demonstrate their dissatisfaction with candidates by spoiling their ballot, or leaving it blank, while still participating in the civic process. Also, if coercion is a factor (a parent or company expecting someone to vote a certain way), the ballot is entirely private, and can be spoiled if necessary, or marked otherwise.

Thank you for your time and concern.

Zak Nicholls
Little Current