Town eyeing vote-by-mail method again

Duane Hicks

With the municipal election coming up next fall, the Town of Fort Frances likely will be using a vote-by-mail method once again.
In a report received by council Monday night, Clerk Glenn Treftlin said this method has been used in municipal elections here since 2000—and recommended doing so again.
“Participation by the voters increased substantially in the 2000 election compared to previous elections, where traditional voting methods were used, and has remained at that elevated level in each subsequent election,” Treftlin said in his report.
“Even in the recent by-election in 2008, the voter turnout, although less than for the regular election, remained relatively strong compared to what would normally be expected when there is less than a full slate of offices for which to vote,” he added.
“More and more municipalities in Ontario are taking advantage of available technology and opting for alternative methods for holding elections, including vote-by-mail, telephone voting, Internet voting, and others,” Treftlin continued.
“The use of vote-by-mail has been an affordable alternative to Fort Frances in the past, the cost of which compares favourably to the traditional paper ballot method,” he noted.
“Vote-by-mail has proved to make voting more accessible and convenient for voters in that they have more time to complete their ballot and can do so in their home.
“The voter kit with instructions is usually out weeks prior to voting day, and the completed ballot can be returned by mail or in person in a secrecy envelope with a signed voter declaration form in a postage pre-paid envelope so long as it is received at the Civic Centre before the close of polling on election day,” he explained.
Treftlin also recommended the town utilize electronic vote-tabulating equipment again, as was used in the 2006 election.
“There are definite advantages to using vote tabulators along with vote-by-mail,” he said. “The tolerances for acceptance of a vote cast can be defined for tabulators and the same test of acceptance will be applied consistently to each ballot cast.
“The comfort level as to reliance on the accuracy of the count will be maintained at a higher level, as well, since human fatigue is not a factor.”
Thanks to vote tabulators, Treftlin noted election results were known within eight minutes after the polls closed on election day in 2006.
Upon recommendation of the Administration and Finance executive committee, council approved the report Monday night and directed Treftlin to bring forward a bylaw to provide for a vote-by-mail method of voting, supported by vote tabulating equipment, in the 2010 municipal election.
This bylaw will be voted on at a future council meeting.
In related news, Treftlin said in his report that a notice will be advertised in December, advising candidates that nominations for various offices will be accepted starting Jan. 4.