Phone and online voting to stay in 2022

By Merna Emara
Staff Writer

The Town of Fort Frances council voted to accept telephone and internet voting methods for the 2022 Municipal and School Board elections. The same voting method was in place for the 2018 elections.

Although it may seem that constituents are a few months away from making a decision on the ballot, town clerk Gabrielle Lecuyer said it is important for the voting method to be chosen early for planning purposes.

Lecuyer said moving from the traditional paper ballot to alternative voting showed a significant decrease in the overall cost of the elections in terms of resources requirement and equipment.

“[Alternative voting] seems to have run quite smoothly in 2018,” Lecuyer said. “There is always a fear when you’re running an alternative voting method of not having participation from certain age groups. But that has not been the case.”

Lecuyer also said in the report that as the pandemic goes on, it is uncertain as to where they may be in a year’s time.

“Planning must be in place to ensure voters can comfortably cast their ballot,” the report states. “Having alternative voting will deliver more options for voters to safely cast their votes without having to attend a voting place.”

The report submitted from the Administration and Finance Executive Committee to council cites more advantages to telephone and internet voting.

One of the pros stated in the report was having the results produced almost immediately after the polls close. Another advantage is increasing voting accessibility by having it be cast on mobile devices, home computers, telephones or kiosk locations.

Lecuyer added during the meeting that internet and telephone voting is a great way to ensure no ballots are spoiled or rejected because they are either mismarked or the “x” is not in the right place.  

“This is a fantastic way of avoiding those kinds of situations, which then avoids your recount issue as well,” Lecuyer said. “I do feel very strongly about that. And if there is a request for a recount, my experience has been that those numbers are not going to change. You’re ensuring the vote numbers are accurate.”

Telephone and internet voting also allows seasonal residents, such as snowbirds, to vote anywhere, Lecuyer said. 

Alternative voting also reduces staff requirement and saves on time needed to train them. 

Coun. Douglas Judson said he agrees with Lecuyer’s recommendation, and said it was a smooth process from the last election cycle. 

“I would like to see us be consistent, in part because I think it’s difficult for voters when we switch methods of participation between cycles,” Judson said. 

However, he said with telephone voting, constituents cannot see the full list of candidates, and therefore have to react immediately based on what they are hearing.

“I’m actually wondering if we can get before we move this forward a bit of information into what the interface actually looks like for people who are voting in that audio format. How is the ballot presented to them and how it works,” Judson said. 

Coun. Wendy Brunetta said something to consider would be asking the telephone provider to have an option where voters can press a certain number to repeat the options.

Lecuyer said telephone voting can sometimes be confusing, but she also had feedback from residents that did not have the capability of voting electronically, adding that there is still a strong support of individuals that do prefer the telephone.