Nova Scotia

Municipality hopes electronic balloting will boost voter participation this fall

The returning officer for the Municipality of the District of Yarmouth hopes electronic voting will increase voter participation in the October municipal elections, despite the pandemic.

'With what we're going through now with COVID-19, this gives us an option to stay at home if we want to'

Dean Fuller is the returning officer for the Municapility of the District of Yarmouth. (Robert Short/CBC)

The returning officer for the Municipality of the District of Yarmouth hopes electronic voting will increase voter participation in the October municipal elections in spite of COVID-19.

"With what we're going through now with COVID-19, this gives us an option to stay at home if we want to," said Dean Fuller.

"The turnout [last election] was 39 per cent. I'm hoping we will do better than that since people can vote any time of the day, from any location."

Fuller said the town of Yarmouth saw a significant jump in voter turnout to 67 per cent when it went to e-voting in 2012. He noted that not all municipalities have had a similar level of success.

The Municipality of the District of Yarmouth administration building in Hebron. (Robert Short/CBC)

Fuller did a presentation of the phone and internet voting system last Thursday in Hebron to familiarize people with the technology. A kiosk with an iPad was also set up.

The municipality plans to have a kiosk with voter assistance at the municipal administration building. There will also be a mobile kiosk set up in different locations of the municipality through the advance polling days.

Fuller said that should reassure people who are worried about their internet connections, who want help to navigate the voting process or who just don't want to vote from home.

"There's no paper ballots," said Fuller. "But some people want to go vote. I've heard that."

The Municipality of the District of Yarmouth is one of 41 municipalities that have gone with either only e-voting or a hybrid system with both e-voting and paper ballots.

Victoria Brooks is the chief administrative officer for the Municipality of the District of Yarmouth, (Robert Short/CBC)

Only eight municipalities will stick with just the traditional paper ballots — the towns of Clark's Harbour, Lockeport, and Mulgrave, as well as the Region of Queens and the municipalities of Antigonish, Barrington, Colchester and Richmond.

The chief administrative officer for the Municipality of the District of Yarmouth said council did not have plans for e-voting this time around and had to change its mind in July.

"COVID-19 has changed everything," said Victoria Brooks. "Change is difficult, but we're changing in the midst of a pandemic, and people are used to having to do things differently."

She emphasized that the system does not just rely on the internet. People can use the phone to vote.

"Ninety-two per cent of Nova Scotians still have a landline," said Brooks, "There's really no barrier to voting."

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