South Bruce Peninsula is switching from vote-by-mail to an online/telephone voting method for the 2022 municipal election.
Mayor Janice Jackson said the change will save the municipality money and require less staff time leading up to and on election day.
“The time involved for our staff to process vote-by-mail is monstrous,” she said Wednesday in an interview.
“It’s weeks of opening returned ballots and then, of course, on the day, opening the sealed privacy envelopes and processing them. It typically takes six to eight staff members on the day and about three staff members every day for a month leading up to the election to process the envelopes that come in. It’s very labour intensive.”
Council voted Tuesday to direct staff to place on an upcoming agenda a bylaw to change the voting method to online/telephone for the Oct. 24, 2022, municipal election.
Town staff say sticking with the mail-in system for 2022 would cost at least $70,000 and would likely end up being about $105,000.
The 2018 election cost the town $56,000, but staff anticipates a vote-by-mail system in 2022 would cost significantly more due to increased costs for postage and supplies and the need to hire additional staff, according to a report to council.
Municipalities of similar size to South Bruce Peninsula spent about $27,000 to $30,000 to use a telephone/online voting method in 2018.
Bruce County clerks are now seeking a shared service provider for a telephone/Internet voting system for 2022.
South Bruce Peninsula was one of only three Grey-Bruce municipalities that conducted their election by mail-in ballot in 2018.
The other municipalities that used an online/telephone method extended their voting periods by an extra 24 hours in 2018 after technical difficulties prevented electors from voting for about two hours on election day. The company retained by the municipalities to serve as their election service provider said the issue was caused by an unauthorized reduction in bandwidth by a Toronto-based Internet co-location provider.
Angie Cathrae, South Bruce Peninsula’s director of legislative services/clerk, said in a report to council that based on conversations with election platform providers, it’s unlikely the same issue will occur for the 2022 vote.
As far as the security of an online/telephone voting system, Cathrae said the service providers are experienced and have the highest security protocols in place.
“In order to assist those who do not have internet access, an assistance station can be put in place at town hall where people needing telephone/internet access can vote,” the report says.