Orangeville looks to include electronic votes in next election

February 29, 2024   ·   0 Comments


Orangeville may incorporate electronic voting into its democratic process for the next municipal election.

Council decided during its regular meeting on Feb. 26 to get public feedback on whether or not electronic voting should be allowed with the traditional tabulators for ballots at the polls during the next municipal political contest in October 2026.

Orangeville is the only lower-tier municipality in Dufferin County that did not use a form of electronic voting in the 2022 municipal election.

In 2022, of the 417 municipal governments eligible to hold elections, 151 opted to not offer in-person voting at all, and 217 offered some form of electronic voting, either in addition to paper ballots or on its own.

That number in 2018 was 175. For further reference, 32 municipalities did not hold an election as their entire Council was acclaimed, 98 municipalities held a traditional paper ballot election, and the remaining utilized some form of internet, telephone or vote-by-mail alternative option.

Voter participation has been waning in Orangeville. In 2003, 35 per cent of eligible voters participated. Provincewide, 40 per cent cast ballots in their municipalities.

In 2014, 39 per cent marked their choices for council, compared to 43 per cent Ontario-wide.

But just 27 per cent trekked to the polls in Orangeville in 2022, compared to 36 per cent across the province.

The Municipal Elections Act was amended in 1996 to permit the use of alternative voting methods and tabulation equipment in lieu of, or in addition to, the traditional paper ballot system of voting.

This was viewed by many Ontario municipalities as a positive change to enable greater opportunity and access for both resident and non-resident voters.

In looking at similar-sized municipalities, the full cost of a hybrid (electronic and traditional) voting system for a municipal election could cost as much as $200,000. That isn’t much more than the 2022 municipal election, which cost the town about $180,000.

Councillor Tess Prendergast said she is a proponent of alternative voting options like internet and telephone voting and mail-in ballots. But she asked about the risks of vote tampering online.

She referenced an allusion to eliminating advance voting in the political process. She said that would be detrimental to democracy for residents of a commuter town in which many people work shifts.

Antonietta Minichillo, the town’s general manager of corporate services, said the goal is to get as many people to cast ballots as possible and to ensure the integrity of those votes and the electoral system.

“This is just allowing another mechanism of voting, which we need council authority to do,” Minichillo said.

Coun. Debbie Sherwood said she has concerns about the mail-in ballots.

“I worry about the timing sometimes of the mail-in option,” she said.

Minichillo said the town isn’t looking to allow mail-in voting. Council would need to authorize that as another voting tool.

“We’re not recommending that option at this time,” Minichillo said. “What we’re recommending is that we add electronic voting to our current voting mechanisms.”

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