Whitehorse moves to electronic ballot counting

Computers will count the ballots during the next Whitehorse municipal election. The system won't be completely electronic. Instead, voters will continue to mark their choice on a piece of paper.

Computers will count the ballots during the next Whitehorse municipal election.

The system won’t be completely electronic. Instead, voters will continue to mark their choice on a piece of paper. But ballots will then be put through an electronic reader for tallying.

Retaining paper ballots means that, if there are any concerns, a manual recount can still be done, said city councillor John Streicker.

That happened in 2011 when two candidates vying for the final councillor seat were within two votes of each other.

After a recount, they ended up being three votes apart.

The cost of the electronic ballot readers are expected to be covered by savings made by a new agreement between the city and Elections Canada.

The city expects savings in the neighbourhood of $70,000 to $80,000 by not having to compile its own list. Those funds will be made available to support the electronic system, Streicker said, although the exact cost of it remains unknown.

Streicker said he hopes the changes will lead to an increase in voter turnout in the next municipal election.

Elections Canada invests a lot of money into their lists so they typically have better ones than the city does, Streicker said.

“A better list means fewer swear-ins, which means more convenience. More convenience means more votes.”

If people see they’re not on a list, they’re less likely to want to vote, said Streicker.

Voter turnout for the 2012 municipal election was low at approximately 43 per cent, and even lower at 37 per cent in 2009.

That’s compared to the roughly 76 per cent turnout for the last territorial election.

Streicker said voter lists would be shared between polling stations around the city, making it easier for people to vote where it’s most convenient for them.

“If you want to vote near work because it’s more convenient, the list will be shared and live, meaning other polling stations will know where and when you voted,” he said.

“If you’re running around to bring your kids somewhere and you don’t have time to get to your polling station, you might not vote. But if we make it more flexible, we hope we’ll capture more people.”

Streicker said details should be finalized by the spring, as elections are typically prepared six months ahead of time.

Contact Myles Dolphin at

myles@yukon-news.com

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