An automatic vote counter tallies results two hours faster than a manual count — that’s the main reason the city is considering a bylaw to allow for the use of an electronic tabulator in October’s municipal election.
City clery Norma Felker told council during a recent standing committees meeting that the last time the city used an automatic machine was during the 2015 election.
The Municipal Act requires ministerial approval for the use of automated voting machines in an election.
In 2015 a technical glitch meant results weren’t immediately posted to the city’s website, but Felker said that had nothing to do with the tabulator itself.
“If that was the biggest problem we had, it was the best one we could have had,” she told council.
While staff haven’t yet figured out how to ensure that doesn’t happen again, Felker said the solution will be a top priority now that the issue has been identified.
Felker told the News the automated system is not only preferred for its speed, but also for the fact that it guards against rejected ballots by immediately signaling when a ballot is unreadable, or marked in more than one place. Polling station officers can then give voters the chance to re-do their ballots if desired.
Some of these are intentionally spoiled ballot. “That often happens with the mayor ballot because if they don’t like any of the candidates they just put it in and leave it blank, or they mark them all,” Felker said. But others are sometimes rejected due to votes being unclear because voters mark the wrong candidate and don’t erase the mark well enough.
If the bylaw goes ahead, Felker said the next step is to go to tender, hopefully in early March. The automatic tabulators are rentals, Felker said, and they typically cost $40,000.
“The savings for us is in time,” Felker said of the cost.
Council will make a decision Jan. 15.
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