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Cobourg Brings Intellivote Back for 2018 Election

By Cecilia Nasmith, Northumberland Today
Monday, May 1, 2017

COBOURG – Cobourg council has accepted the recommendation in municipal clerk Lorraine Brace’s report at last week’s council meeting, and brought back Intellivote Systems Inc. to make the arrangements for Internet and telephone voting in the 2018 municipal election.

Their support was whole-hearted, Brace reported afterwards, and the record of success with Intellivote is solid.

With the next municipal campaign beginning May 1, 2018, and the vote taking place Oct. 22 that year, paper ballots have long since been phased out and the municipality requires the services of an external provider to handle the Internet- and telephone-voting components of the election.

Alternative-voting methods were first authorized for municipal elections in 2006, an effort for which Intellivote was engaged to provide an electronic-voting system to offer in addition to the traditional paper ballots. Intellivote was brought back for the 2010 and 2014 elections as well, when the process went all-electronic.

Their services included election personnel and candidate training, exceptional support (with site visits as required), set-up of a Voter Help Line, promotional DVD, elector voter-information cards, formulation of policies and procedures, as well as clear written and verbal instructions for implementation of the system.

There have consistently been positive results, the report said, offering statistics to illustrate.

The participation rate in 2014 was 52.4%, up from 47.3% in 2010. This compares with a 36.7% turn-out in 2003, the last election using only traditional paper ballots, and 47.3% in 2006, when voters had a choice of paper or electronic voting.

Election costs for the town were $81,627.69 in 2003, and rose by about $6,000 in 2006. But they declined once the town went all-electronic $52,460.50 in 2010 and $53,578.73 in 2014.

Interviewed later, Brace said the lower cost can be accounted for largely by eliminating extra staffing, paper records and polling stations.

“The results are so quick, and they are audited, and they are accurate,” she stated.

The municipal solicitor and an Intellivote rep take over Brace’s office on election day to monitor activities. The extra pair of eyes are a good precaution, she said.

Her report gave details of the Intellivote $39.200 quote for 2018, based on an estimated 15,000 electors, a set-up that will allow votes to cast ballots 24 hours a day over a seven-to-10-day period.

“The municipality will provide Voter Helpline service, staffed by municipal employees/election officials, and Intellivote will provide all required training,” it said.

“The creation of the Personal Identification Numbers and Voter Instruction Letters (including postage) required for electors to vote will be provided by Intellivote Systems Inc.

“Internet and telephone voting is in English and French, and enhanced accessibility features are made available and are improved on year-over-year in accordance with the AODA legislation,” she said, referring to the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.

“They just keep improving every year,” Brace stated later. “They meet all the AODA requirements and more.”

In fact, Cobourg has been cited by Accessibility Community and Accessibility Ontario as an example by advocacy groups for similar types of elections at provincial level.

Councillor Suzanne Seguin asked how seniors have responded, and Brace assured her this is no cause to worry.

“You can’t look at them as not being computer-savvy now. In ’06 and 2010, there was a learning curve, but now that is what they do,” she stated in the interview.

“They don’t want to come outside. Technology is their thing now. They enjoy it now.”

And voters of every age enjoy the convenience of additional voting opportunities and not having to brave the weather and parking challenges to cast a ballot.

“And anyone who needs support, we have stations at Victoria Hall to assist anyone who needs it. There are two touch screens.

“And we go to long-term-care homes with touch screens, and they are able to vote right there. It boosts participation, and every year it gets better.

“We communicate like crazy to let people know,” she added.

They will repeat and enhance the voter awareness campaigns they mounted on the new procedures in 2010 and 2014, with a view to increasing voter turn-out. Measures include an election brochure distributed throughout the municipality, satellite voting site at the Cobourg Public Library, Voter Help Line, video and personal demonstrations, an extended time period for voting, and visits to long-term-care facilities by an IT supervisor and deputy returning officers to provide Internet voting stations and assistance with the process.

Brace’s recommendation, supported by council is that the $39,200 cost come from the Election Reserve fund set aside each year for this purpose.
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