Leamington, Ont., will go to online voting only for the October municipal elections, and officials say the town will become the first community in Canada to allow the casting of ballots solely on the internet.
Leamington, southeast of Windsor, says every registered voter for the Oct. 27 election must cast a ballot online.
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"This sole method of voting follows Council’s strategic plan to be environmentally friendly and to embrace technology," the municipality of Leamington's website says.
"This voting method will be more convenient and more accessible for our residents and less expensive than previous municipal elections," Mayor John Paterson said in a release.
Leamington, which has about 17,000 eligible voters, has selected Scytl Online Voting for its internet-only voting process. Ballots can be cast through any mobile or computing device.
The town's director of corporate services, Brian Sweet, said that based on the town's research, there is "no reason to believe we aren't the only municipality in Canada" to move internet-only voting.
Sweet does not think the online-only method will cause any problems.
He said going online may prompt more people in the age 18-to-25 range to vote.
"That's one of the largest age groups that tend not to vote in municipal elections. So we're hoping that maybe we'll attract more of those," he said. "But that remains to be seen. If they're not interested in municipal politics, it may not matter how convenient you make it for them."
Sweet said the town traditionally has a 30 per cent voter turnout rate. The use of mail-in ballots in the last election four years ago got the participation rate to 50 per cent, he said, adding he hopes even more people will vote online in 2014.
Town to ensure computer access
Sweet said accommodations will be made so everyone, even those without computers or internet access, can vote.
Computers will be set up at voting stations in the town, with staff on standby to help out.
"We think we'll be able to address those issues where people either don't have access to a computer or have slow internet access, or if they just are uncomfortable with it," Sweet said.
Scytl said in a media release it ensures "security and full anonymity for its voters," with savings on election costs.
"Scytl Online Voting enables voters to securely and easily cast their vote while ensuring privacy and results integrity," the company said in a media release.
Neither the company nor municipality has said how much money may be saved.
Leamington isn’t the first Ontario municipality to experiment with online voting.
A June 2013 report by Elections Ontario examined advantages and disadvantages of network voting technologies. It found that in 2010, 44 of 444 Ontario municipalities offered internet or telephone voting or both for their elections.
According to Elections Ontario, Stratford used online and phone but no paper ballots in the 2010 election.
Other municipalities, such as Markham, the largest Ontario municipality to use internet voting, offered the choice to vote by internet only during the advance vote period, Elections Ontario said.