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Internet, telephone voting recommended for next Kawartha Lakes municipal election

DAN CEARNS, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, for The Standard

KAWARTHA LAKES: City of Kawartha Lakes council members are endorsing a recommendation for the city to move forward with internet and telephone voting as the preferred method in the next municipal election.

At a Committee of the Whole meeting on Tuesday, January 12th, councillors voted to recommend this voting method for approval at the next council meeting, being held later this month.

The voting method discussion began when councillors saw a report from clerk Cathie Ritchie.

“Benefits of online voting relate to voter convenience and improved accessibility, enhanced voter privacy, modest increases in voter turnout, reduction in ballot errors and spoiled ballots, and improvements to the efficiency of elections,” the report stated.

Ms. Ritchie also pointed to the fact this method “provides the best and most efficient way for persons with disabilities and/or those who are seasonal electors not in the City during the voting period to participate in the election process,” to justify recommending this voting method.

Kawartha Lakes first used internet and telephone voting in the 2018 municipal election. Though issues with the system led to a one-day delay in the release of the voting results.

Ward 1 Councillor Emmett Yeo asked if they have put any safeguards in place to avoid a similar situation at the next election. The clerk stated the city has learned their lesson from the last election, and will make sure the company they decide to go with to provide this voting method for the next election has exactly what the city requires.

“In our RFP (request for proposal), we are going to ensure there is the provision for cyber security, connectivity and capacity,” Ms. Ritchie shared.

Kawartha Lakes also saw a dip in the number of voters who participated in that election. The 2014 election saw 41.49 percent of eligible voters cast a ballot, while the 2018 election saw 38.05 percent of voters participate.

But Ms. Ritchie pointed out to councillors their 2018 election attendance was “marginally higher than the provincial average.” During a telephone press conference on Wednesday, January 13th, Mayor Letham said the drop in voter turnout was a trend seen across Ontario.

“I think it is a voter trend. Our report showed us the provincial [voting] average went down from the previous election to this election. So whether we had stayed with a mail in ballot or went to [the] online [method], it would be interesting to see if those numbers would have gone down. With the mail in ballot the previous term, we were below the provincial average for turnout. With the online and telephone ballot at the last election, we were above the provincial average,” he said. The next municipal election is scheduled to take place in October of 2022.

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