Waiting until after midnight to get municipal election results could become a thing of the past if the Town of Creston adopts an electronic voting system, town council learned at Tuesday’s regular meeting.
Bhar Sihota, who is doing a local government management internship at Creston Town Hall, presented a report that indicates that other small municipalities, including Nelson and Castlegar, are already successfully using electronic systems.
“These systems do not reduce lineups or waiting times,” he cautioned council. “The role of the machine is to electronically count the ballots and record the results, and it is not expected to make the act of voting quicker.
“Although there are many different types of vote tabulation units, the process generally begins with the elector receiving a paper ballot with circles next to each candidate’s name or plebiscite question.”
The ballot is placed in a “secrecy sleeve” after the voter’s choice is marked. Then, under supervision of an election official, the ballot is inserted into the machine. At no time does anyone but the voter see his selections.
“Ballots which cannot be read or accepted are returned, along with an explanation of the problem and how to solve it,” Sihota said. “The elector then has the choice of replacing the ballot or allowing the election official to override the error message, allowing only those sections on the ballot with valid votes/markings to be read.”
Electronic systems help reduce the number of unintentionally spoiled ballots or eliminate them altogether, he said.
Responding to a question by Coun. Wesly Graham, Sihota confirmed that the override option allows a voter to cast a spoiled ballot by choice.
Sihota identified a number of electronic systems that are available and proven, all of which would increase the costs of “voting-related expense”, some tripling the 2011 hand-counting cost of about $5,700.
Council voted to accept Sihota’s report, indicating its interest in moving to an electronic vote counting system. No final decision will be made until 2013 budget discussions.
If council opts for an electronic counting system it will also have to amend its current election bylaw.