Sudbury·MUNICIPAL ELECTION

'It kind of flips the campaign on its head'—Thousands of votes already cast in municipal election

The municipal election is still a week away, but thousands of ballots have already been cast across northern Ontario. That's because of advance polls held in several cities, but also because more and more citizens are able to vote online.

Greater Sudbury online voting will be open from 10 am Oct. 15 until 8 pm Oct. 22

Greater Sudbury, Timmins, Wawa and Killarney are among the 194 municipalities across Ontario that are allowing citizens to vote online in this election. (Shutterstock)

In many parts of northern Ontario, the idea of "voting day" is starting to fade into history.

A lot of voting in this municipal election is happening well ahead of the actual election day on Oct. 22.

People in Timmins have been voting for weeks now, as the online system opened Oct. 1.

City clerk Steph Palmateer says about 3,400 have been cast so far and he expects that number to more than double before the polls close on election night at 8 pm surpassing the online turnout from 2014 of 6,000 ballots. 

He says he's heard from many voters who love the convenience of marking a ballot whenever and wherever they like.

"Fairly simple to use and generally within 90 seconds or two minutes you can cast your ballot and be done," says Palmateer, who added that Timmins citizens can still fill out paper ballots at a polling place on election day. 

Voters in Timmins and Greater Sudbury will have the option of going to a polling station on election day or voting online from anywhere they like. (CBC)

In Greater Sudbury, online voting will open at 10 am Oct. 15 and goes until polls close at 8 pm on voting day.

In 2014, some 26,000 people or about 45 per cent of voters, cast a ballot online in Sudbury, when the internet voting was only available during the advance polling period. 

Small towns like Wawa and Killarney are also among the 194 municipalities across Ontario offering some form of online voting.

But larger centres like Sault Ste. Marie and North Bay are still totally on paper ballots, while some smaller municipalities, like French River, still have residents vote by mail. Other places in Ontario, people vote by making a telephone call. 

Nicole Goodman is a political science professor at Brock University and the director of the Centre for E-Democracy, who has studied the online voting patterns in Ontario municipal elections since it was first tried out in 2003.

She says being able to vote anywhere and at anytime has forced campaign teams to change the way they reach out to voters and when. 
Nicole Goodman is the director of the Centre for E-Democracy (Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy)

"It kind of flips the campaign on its head," Goodman says.

"So, it's actually making the front end of the campaign almost, if not more, important than the end of the campaign." 

She says two common myths are about online voting are that it boosts turnout for younger citizens and that it scares away older voters.

"The typical online voter, the person that's going to use it the most, they're actually a little bit older than their paper voting counterparts. They're a little bit more educated, they make a little bit more money."

Her research shows first-time voters prefer the experience of going to a polling station and marking a paper ballot.

Goodman says while there are plenty of security concerns about online voting, but there haven't been any reported frauds since it was first used in Ontario municipal elections 15 years ago.

About the Author

Erik White

journalist

Erik White is a CBC journalist based in Sudbury. He covers a wide range of stories about northern Ontario. Connect with him on Twitter @erikjwhite. Send story ideas to erik.white@cbc.ca

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