Should the MD move to electronic ballots?
A municipal election for the Municipal District (MD) of Bonnyville will be held on October 16th, 2017 and in preparation for the event, the MD invited Esther Quiambao, Grants Coordinator and newly appointed Returning Officer, to speak on electronic ballots and some of the election protocols and last term election turnouts.
To make things even easier on the voters, Quiambao brought forth an option for Council to move towards electronic polling stations. “We have received a number of quotes from possible suppliers and we’ve reviewed them at the administration level,” explains Quiambao, “we wanted to bring forward the idea to Council. Should a municipality choose to use voting machines or systems, when taking the votes of the electors, we are required to draft a bylaw.”
Reeve for the Municipal District of Bonnyille, Ed Rondeau, says he believes electronic voting is enviable. “If we’re not going to do it this election, we’re going to do it in the next. So why not sooner?” The machines would be rented and cost anywhere from $1,000 to $3,000 per unit. The cost includes the services that come with operating the machines.
One of the biggest benefits is real-time results, says Quiambao, “there is a built-in modem in the units. So as soon as it’s closed the information, automatically, will be sent to us (the MD) and we’ll be able to post the results; which is wonderful.” Quiambao confirmed Rondeau suspicions that electronic voting is the way of the future, stating that she attended a workshop with 80 municipalities and half of them had already switched over to electronic ballots.
Council approved to move forward with drafting a bylaw for electronic voting.
Nominations & Changes to Election Process
Quiambao notified Council that the last day for nominations to run for Council is four weeks out of the election, or September 18th, 2017, “nominations are open between 10:00 am and noon on that day. The disclosure of any candidates is available to those requesting it, after noon on that day,” explains Quiambao. There are some changes coming from the last election, says Quiambao, “In 2013, there was a new requirement by Municipal Affairs, to have all candidates register with the municipality, prior to receiving campaign funds. That is moving forward in 2017. What that means is anyone who is receiving any campaign donations is required to fill out a form, which is available here (at the MD office) and the Municipal Affairs website. They have to submit it to (the MD) and we in turn submit it to Municipal Affairs.”
There is another new requirement for the 2017 election, states Quiambao, “Municipal Affairs just posted their new 2017 information package for candidates and it’s up on their website.” The MD will be preparing candidate packages, as well, Quiambao confirms they will be available closer to April/May.
Council must now determine the number & location of polling stations. The main goal with the polling stations is efficiency. “We want to make sure that it’s easy for people to get to, we want to make sure that it’s an expedient process and we want to make sure that we’re using good use of our resources,” explains Quiambao.
Part of determining how many stations are needed is determining the electoral population and turnout. In 2013, there were 13,233 people in the MD, of that population 9,200 are over 18 years of age and eligible to to vote. In the last election Wards 3, 4 & 5 did not have a Councillor race, so what looking at turnout, Council should keep that in mind. “Overall, we have a 22 percent voter turnout,” says Quiambao. The low turnout would have to do with Wards 3, 4 & 5 being acclaimed.
In 2013, there were 15 polling stations; however from the voter turnout, Quimbao proposed that there be 13 stations. “This would mean we’d had three to four per Ward. We would cover all the Wards at the Bonnyville Seniors’ Drop-in Centre; which is our normal location for our voting stations. We would also have multiple Wards voted at the Fort Kent Seniors’ Centre.” On nomination day, if there are some Wards that are acclaimed the polling stations may be reduced; as there won’t be a need for the stations in those Wards. Especially, if the Reeve should be acclaimed.
The election will be held on October 16th, with nominations due on September 17th from 10:00 am – 12:00 pm at the MD of Bonnyville office.