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Local electorate divided on question of election ballots

Cathy Dobson More than 460 Sarnians completed a recent survey that asked how they would prefer to vote in 2022.
Election voting ballot

Cathy Dobson

More than 460 Sarnians completed a recent survey that asked how they would prefer to vote in 2022.

The response was better than average for a City Hall survey and reflects the level of community interest, said election committee member Michelle Parks.

About half the respondents favoured in-person ballot voting and the other half liked Internet and telephone voting, she said.

“The community is very split on it. It will be a tough call,” said Parks who was a candidate in the 2018 municipal election.

She is one of four volunteers on the city’s ad hoc election committee, which was struck after council requested for a voting review.

In 2018, Sarnians switched to e-voting for the first time, using the Internet and telephone to choose a mayor, councillors and school trustees. A few locations were set up to provide in-person assistance for anyone uncertain of the technology.

“I think online voting worked well,” said Parks. “But I’m not a fan of phone voting. There were problems with it.”

The switch to e-voting boosted voter turnout from 37.1% in 2014 to 48.9% in 2018. More eligible voters cast ballots than at any time since 1994.

However, some city councillors were unhappy the switch had been made with little public consultation. So this term, the elections committee and survey were approved, said Parks.

“It only makes sense.”

Two local residents submitted written comments to council on Oct. 26, including John Brown, who said telephone and Internet voting proved successful. But he also told council the survey was framed in such a way it precluded telephone and Internet voting.

But Parks disagreed, saying the survey asked about e-voting, which covers telephone and Internet voting.

“At least this is moving in the right direction,” Coun. Margaret Bird said at the meeting. This time, “we’re trying to examine all the options and give the public input.”

The survey asked for feedback on three voting methods: paper ballots at a polling station, e-voting, and mail-in ballots.

Though the survey is now closed Parks said the committee continues to welcome written input.

Recommendations are expected to go to council this month.

“Then it is up to council to decide what we’ll do in 2022,” Parks said.

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