Report and recommendation goes to council’s committee of the whole for discussion on Nov. October 25, 2021
By: GuelphToday Staff
In a report heading to council’s committee of the whole next week, staff recommend against implementing a remote accessible vote by mail (RAVBM) option, despite the urging of the city’s accessibility advisory committee.
“Offering RAVBM as a fourth voting method presents significant staffing, budget, security and timing challenges,” states the report, which notes that system hasn’t been used during a Canadian election. “Council, staff and the community need to be able to trust the underlying system for any form of digital voting process.”
The committee is slated to discuss the staff recommendation on Monday afternoon. That meeting begins at 2 p.m. and will be streamed live at guelph.ca/live.
Council will make the final decision at the end on November.
The deadline for approving voting methods for next year’s election is May 1.
RAVBM allows people to use their assistive technologies, such as screen readers, in order to fully understand their ballot. Selections are then marked electronically, with ballots printed out and sent in via mail to be counted along with other mail-in ballots.
Ballots can also be submitted electronically, using a variation of RAVBM, but city council previously voted against allowing online voting.
The city’s accessibility advisory committee (AAC) unanimously approved a motion in April calling on council to consider implementing RAVBM for the 2022 municipal election. Without it, many residents will be excluded from voting, members advised.
“Mail-in voting as it exists is not accessible – to a lot of people,” commented Lorelei Root, chair of the elections sub-committee, during that April meeting. “I personally, as a disabled person, find it offensive that we even talk about it as an accessible option.
“There are people being disenfranchised because accessible options aren’t there,” she continued, adding she personally can’t vote with the options approved by council.
In February, council approved the use of mail-in ballots, in addition to traditional in-person voting, which has an accessible component to it.
A vote-from-home pilot project was approved in June, at which time city staff were directed to look into RAVBM and report back to council.
In recommending against the use of RAVBM in 2022, staff cite the unbudgeted $17,000 cost (estimated), the fact it’s not been used before in Canada and council’s previous decision not to approve online voting.
“Unless council approves additional alternative voting methods and vote counting equipment, the MEA (Municipal Elections Act) requires only that the in-person voting method be accessible. Legislation does not require that alternative voting methods or remote voting methods be offered,” the report states.
“Staff ensure that municipal election services meet and exceed legislative requirements and are informed by best practices at the federal, provincial and municipal levels of government.”
The deadline to register as a delegate or make a written submission for the Nov. 1 committee of the whole meeting is Oct. 29 at 10 a.m. To register, visit guelph.ca/delegation, call 519-837-5603 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.