Sudbury

Councillor, candidate concerned over electronic voting process in Sudbury

The municipal election is two months away. In Sudbury there will be one major change: all ballots will be cast electronically. There is no paper ballot option.

City to provide help centres, electronic voting locations to assist with electronic ballots

The City of Greater Sudbury's slogan for the upcoming municipal election is 'vote anywhere, anytime.'

That's because ballots will be cast electronically. There is no paper ballot option.

That decision came from city council over a year ago.

At that time, Ward 5 councillor Robert Kirwan voted against the plan, arguing that some seniors aren't comfortable with computers or the internet.

"For many of the older adults voting is sacred. Voting is something that really means something to them. You actually made a special trip and special effort to go out to the poll and that's going to be lost."

Kirwan was also concerned that the principal of one person, one vote, could be compromised with online voting.
Greater Sudbury city councillor Robert Kirwan is worried online voting may be susceptible to people voting multiple times. (Olivia Stefanovich/CBC)

"All you need is a PIN number and a birth date and you can vote for anybody that you know."

Kirwan is running again to become the city councillor for Ward 5.

He says he hopes that the future council will revisit the process and bring back paper ballots.

"We've diminished the importance of voting for a lot of people. We've now taken away the sacredness of voting by making it as common as pressing a button on your computer."

"Part of the democratic process"

Terry Kett, a candidate running in Ward 11, says he too is hearing concerns from seniors worried about online voting.

"It is a good thing. I like it myself, but there are many people that would prefer the traditional way of actually going somewhere and physically voting. They like that. It's part of the democratic process," he said.
Terry Kett is a candidate running for city councillor in Ward 11. (Yvon Theriault/Radio-Canada)

Kett adds that many seniors like the traditional way of voting. He calls it a very Canadian activity.

"People are proud of the right to vote. They enjoy it. The excursion of going out and voting...They feel good about that."

While campaigning door-to-door,  Kett says he's heard from Ward 11 voters who don't feel equipped. to vote because they don't have computers or the internet.

The city will have help centres leading up to the election, and then electronic voter locations open on October 22, voting day.

The list went up on the city's website on Monday.

Help on the way

Brigitte Sobush, the manager of clerk services for the city, says there are options for anyone who doesn't feel comfortable with electronic voting.

City staff will be on hand between October 15 and October 21 at help centres, that will be set up at Citizen Service Centres, as a way to offer guidance to those concerned about electronic voting.

Then on election day, the same help will be provided at 22 electronic voter locations across the city.

"There will always be a greeter. Someone that will be available to take revisions to the voters' list or if someone comes in that doesn't have a voter information letter they can certainly receive a voter information letter right at the voting location," she said.

There will also be someone available to assist voters who don't feel comfortable voting on a computer or tablet.

Sobush says there is a transit bus that will act as the city's election bus. During the voting period the vehicle will become a mobile electronic voting location and taken to key areas throughout the city.

Electronic voting was an option in the 2014 municipal election in Greater Sudbury. Sobush says at that time 45 per cent of those who voted used the online option.

About the Author

Angela Gemmill

Journalist

Angela Gemmill is a CBC journalist who has covered news in Sudbury, Ont., for 14 years. Connect with her on Twitter @AngelaGemmill. Send story ideas to angela.gemmill@cbc.ca

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