Oshawa This Week
By Keith Gilligan
Hope is for an increase in voter turnout
AJAX — Nicole Wellsbury, deputy clerk, is pictured at Ajax Town Hall. The Town is going to use Internet-based voting for the 2014 municipal election.
Voters in Ajax will be casting an electronic ballot in the municipal election next year as the Town moves to an Internet-based voting system.
Casting a ballot can be done just about anywhere, Deputy Clerk Nicole Wellsbury told council’s general government committee last week.
“With the Internet, a poll isn’t the only place you can vote. You can vote from a SmartPhone or a Starbucks,” she said.
One of the hopes is voter turnout would improve, but Ms. Wellsbury noted, “There’s not a lot of evidence any method would lead to increased voter turnout. We’ve tried everything else, so we may as well try something new.”
There will be the same number of polls open where voters can go to cast a ballot, she said. The polls will also be Internet-based and staff will be able to help voters who need it.
When an voter heads to the polls, it’s up to them on how much help they want, Ms. Wellsbury stated. “They can have someone make it for them.”
“One of our hopes is they’ll get assistance from a family member on a Sunday at home,” Clerk Marty de Rond said.
Security is an issue, but she said in the last municipal election, 40 Ontario communities used Internet voting and “none had any voter fraud issues.”
The security risks are “unfounded today at the municipal level,” she said, adding voting on the Internet would have more security than Internet banking.
Town officials aren’t dismissing the concern, “but we think it’s been a little bit overblown,” she added.
More than half of the 40 municipalities are also planning to do what Ajax is going to do and do away with paper ballots, she added.
“It’s part of the Town’s image of being progressive,” Ms. Wellsbury said.
Ward 1 local Councillor Marilyn Crawford said, “I think it’s fantastic. I like the idea I can vote at work or wherever.”
Ward 4 local Councillor Pat Brown said Internet-based voting is “the only way to go, but it’s the transition.”
A lot of people have no experience with the Internet at all, she noted.
“The transition is where we have to concentrate on.”
Internet voting would be no different than doing an online survey, Ms. Wellsbury said.
Audio ballots can also be done for those with a hearing impairment, she noted.
A voter isn’t being disenfranchised because there aren’t paper ballots, she said. “If they choose not to vote because there’s no paper, it’s their choice.”
As for the claim the municipality was giving up oversight of the electoral process, Ms. Wellsbury said a lot of municipalities have mail-in ballots and they don’t have that concern.
“The more we go to unsupervised voting, the more onus is on the voter to not spoil their ballot. The onus is on the voter to how they mark the ballot and how to submit it,” Mr. de Rond said.
Voting results will kept on an off-site server, Ms. Wellsbury said, adding she expects it to be somewhere in Canada.HOW IT WILL WORK At Home:
- All electors will receive a Voter Information Package in the mail
- Elector uses ID code provided to register for online voting
- Elector is sent PIN number via an encrypted e-mail and URL to voting website
- During the voting period, voters logs on to vote
- Once ballot is submitted, the voter is struck off the live voters’ List.
At the Poll:
- No pre-registration required
- Identity will be verified by election worker
- Elector is given a PIN to use while voting
- Voter proceeds to voting station to cast ballot – based on voter information, the appropriate ballot is brought up on screen
Staff will be available to provide assistance.
Reporter Keith Gilligan covers Town of Ajax for Metroland Media Group
Voter turnout in the past
Eligible voters: 69,624
Ballots cast: 17,685
Voter turnout: 25.4%
Eligible voters: 63,418
Ballots cast: 14,718
Voter turnout: 23.21%
Pickering 2010 results
Eligible voters: 63,938
Ballots cast: 20,560
Voter turnout: 32.16%
Clarington 2010 results
Eligible voters: 57,547
Ballots cast: 19,868
Voter turnout: 34.52%