New election technology could bring end to searching voter lists, speed up result times
Agency could cut the number of staff required by about 41 per cent if new technologies are adopted
Elections Ontario wants to introduce new technology for the 2018 election to speed up the process for voters, get faster results and use fewer staff.
The agency says it successfully tested e-poll books and vote tabulators in the February byelection in Oshawa, with about 90 per cent of electors and poll officials supporting the changes.
The e-poll books replace the paper-based process where polling officials have to manually search through names, and would allow any poll worker to serve a voter.
Elections Ontario says the e-poll books mean electors will get a ballot within about one minute of arriving at the polling station.
The byelection pilot project with vote tabulators showed they could provide 90 per cent of the results within a half hour of polls closing if used across Ontario.
Attorney General Madeleine Meilleur knows the government would have to act quickly if it wants the new technology in place for the 2018 vote because it would take two years to implement the changes.
Current staffing model 'unsustainable'
"We are seriously considering the advice," she said. "We know it was very successful in the byelection, and we need to modernize our voting system."
It would cost $36 million to introduce the new technologies, but that would allow Elections Ontario to hire fewer staff, addressing its biggest challenge: finding enough people to work a 14- to 16-hour day in a polling station.
"The current staffing model is unsustainable in the long term," chief electoral officer Greg Essensa said in a news release.
"The number 1 concern I hear from returning officers across the province is that they are unable to find the staff required for polling day," he said.
Elections Ontario said it hired 76,000 poll officials for the 2014 election, and would need about 100,000 for the election planned for June 2018 because the number of ridings will increase and because of population growth.
However, the agency believes it could cut the number of staff required by about 41 per cent if the new technologies are in place, and would save about $16 million in staff costs over three election cycles.
The number of electors served by a poll -- currently 300 to 500 -- could be increased to 2,000, which means they would need about 31,000 fewer staff for election day.
The province could save another $28 million if it shared the vote tabulator technology with Ontario municipalities.