Manitoba eyes electronic vote-counting

Manitoba voters will have more options and candidates will have more privacy if a bill introduced in the legislature Wednesday becomes law.

Elections bill would also keep candidates' home addresses private

An employee works with ballot tabulating machines in Lauderhill, Fla., during the 2020 U.S. presidential election. Manitoba's government has brought forward a bill to introduce the electronic counting of votes in future elections. (Lynne Sladky/The Associated Press)

Manitoba voters will have more options and candidates will have more privacy if a bill introduced in the legislature Wednesday becomes law.

The Elections Amendment Act would allow for electronic machines to count votes. Voters would continue to fill out paper ballots, but the machines would be a faster alternative to counting by hand.

"Other jurisdictions have been doing this … and it's a step in the right direction of (modernizing) how people can vote," Premier Heather Stefanson said.

She pointed to Winnipeg where municipal elections have already used electronic vote-counting for a few years.

Electronic counting also allows for immediate registration that someone has voted. That would give Elections Manitoba the ability to allow voters to cast ballots at any polling station in their constituencies instead of a predetermined designated one, Stefanson said.

The Progressive Conservative government's bill also proposes eliminating a provision that currently allows candidates' home addresses to be published online. Candidates can apply for an exemption, but the default position is to make addresses public.

The opposition parties said they support the idea of more privacy, given a rise in protests across the country in recent years.

"We've seen in other jurisdictions folks coming to people's houses," NDP house leader Nahanni Fontaine said.

"I live alone with my son and I want to feel protected in just doing my job."

There were several protests, including one on his driveway, outside former premier Brian Pallister's home before he resigned last fall.

Pallister built a large fence around his property and had on-site security. He said there were many occasions where someone had ventured onto his property and it was something no family should experience.

Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont said he would be open to giving voters general information such as whether candidates live in constituencies in which they are running.

Lamont said last year that he was planning to move to the St. Boniface constituency he represents. That's still a work in progress, he said Wednesday.

"I really quite badly want to vote for myself, but the housing market's a little rough."


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