Nova Scotia

E-voting already leading to higher voter turnout in parts of Nova Scotia

Twenty-six Nova Scotia municipalities have gone with electronic voting only this year. Some have seen an increase in voter turnout, while others continue to remain low.

With election day on Saturday, HRM has already exceeded polling numbers from 2016

A mock ballot from electronic voting service Intelivote. Intelivote is providing e-voting services to municipalities in Nova Scotia this election. (Submitted by Intelivote)

Electronic voting during the municipal election is having a positive impact in parts of the province.

With election day on Saturday, voter turnout is already up in the Halifax Regional Municipality.

As of Wednesday, the HRM's overall turnout rate is just over 32 per cent. That surpasses the total voter turnout in 2016, which was just under 32 per cent.

Voters in HRM still have a chance to vote with paper ballots Saturday.

Tom Urbaniak, a political science professor at Cape Breton University, said there is research to show that access to electronic voting has a positive effect on getting out the vote.

"When you offer options to voters and you offer ease of voting spread out over a few days, that does increase the convenience and flexibility," said Urbaniak. 

The Cape Breton Regional Municipality is one of 26 municipalities that has fully embraced electronic voting.

As of Thursday night, 45 per cent of the municipality's eligible voters had cast their ballots. In 2016, CBRM saw a 53 per cent voter turnout.

CBRM has traditionally had a higher turnout than many other municipalities, but Urbaniak expects the convenience of voting electronically will lead to an increase in that turnout.

"I'm optimistic that the final tally will be positive and encouraging for the Cape Breton Regional Municipality," he said.

The Municipality of the District of Chester has the highest voter turnout thus far at over 50 per cent. In 2016, the municipality had a turnout of just over 35 per cent, but local media noted at the time that there were high rates of voting in individual districts within the municipality. 

It's not all good news. In Kings County, just under 20 per cent of people had voted as of Thursday. In Victoria County, just 18 per cent of eligible voters had cast ballots. 

According to Urbaniak, municipalities need to clearly communicate with constituents for e-voting to be successful.

"Communication is key. Voters have to be very, very clear on what steps they take to cast their ballot."

Urbaniak said CBRM's efforts to inform voters of the change from paper ballots have been helpful in that. The municipality mailed out information to constituents and set up a system for voters to access for help if required.

​​​​​​​With files from Pam Berman

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