ELECTION 2018

Towns seek answers after voting snafu

Municipalities across Ontario are demanding to know more about what caused a major delay in internet voting on election day, and how the company providing the service will prevent such a breakdown from happening again.

Municipalities in Ottawa Valley, across Ontario forced to extend election into 2nd day

Returning officer Kim Bulmer stands in the Town of Renfrew's voting station, which had to be opened for a second day Tuesday after technical delays stalled internet and telephone voting. (Stu Mills/CBC)

Municipalities across Ontario are demanding to know more about what caused a major delay in internet voting on election day, and how the company providing the service will prevent such a breakdown from happening again.

Polls remained open until 8 p.m. Tuesday in five communities in the Ottawa Valley after the company experienced "technical delays" on Oct. 22.

Renfrew, Pembroke, Petawawa and the townships of Laurentian Valley and Whitewater Region collectively made an emergency decision to extend the vote an extra day, as did two dozen other communities across Ontario including Sudbury, Owen Sound, Kawartha Lakes and Huntsville.

The municipalities hired Canadian company Dominion Voting to provide internet and telephone voting. The City of Ottawa also hired the company to provide its voting tabulators and counting software.

On Monday evening, Dominion Voting blamed a third-party service provider in Toronto for limiting the bandwidth during the peak period when votes were rolling in, causing delays.

 

'Groundhog Day' for at least 29 communities

Officials in the affected communities expressed disappointment.

"People are still fearful of [voting online]," said Dean Sauriol, returning officer in the Township of Laurentian Valley. "You get a situation like we had now, it really puts a black mark on it."

In Pembroke, 75 per cent of voters tend to cast their ballots online or by phone, while the other 25 per cent cast a paper ballot at the town's lone polling station at the local Legion, according to returning officer and chief administrative officer Terry LaPierre.

The glitch, over which the town had no control, was frustrating enough, LaPierre said. Having to do it all over again Tuesday just added to the frustration.

"I felt like I'd woken up to Groundhog Day," he said. "Here we go again, doing the exact same things we did yesterday for another day."

Suzanne Klassen is relieved she voted the old-fashioned way after problems with electronic and telephone voting forced a number of municipalities, including Renfrew, to keep polls open an extra day. 0:20

Seeking reassurance

Once the election is settled, LaPierre said Pembroke will begin asking questions of Dominion Voting and demanding the company solve the problem by the next round of municipal contests in 2022.

LaPierre said Pembroke's not alone: on a conference call, officials from communities across Ontario, from Collingwood to Sudbury to Kingston, shared his concerns.

The company is offering those concerned municipalities reassurance.

"We'll do a full-company debrief on the problems that occurred, and how to ensure that Ontario voters never experience this problem in future," said Dominion Voting spokesperson Kay Stimson. 

51 municipalities across the province had issues with their online voting system yesterday. We check in with a couple of them in Ottawa Valley. 9:35