Cost of Immediacy

Town of Bonnyville ponders is knowing election results sooner worth the price tag?

In preparation for the upcoming election, the Town of Bonnyville is finessing its Election Bylaw. A few items, which the town did not have previously, will be considered for inclusion in the new bylaw; including incapacitated voter at home, advance vote, vote on bylaw or question, and automated voting system. Should Town Council choose to go with an automated voting system it will cost approximately $9,000 to operate and only really provides on service; quicker results.

“Is it worth it to get the results that night?” questioned Mayor of Bonnyville, Gene Sobolewski. The voting machines will give results within 30 minutes of the polls closing. In the past, Bonnyville has used people to tally the votes. Last election 18% of the population, roughly 900 people, voted in the Town election. “Do we really need a machine for that?” the general consensus from Town Council on Tuesday evening was that Bonnyville is a small community and at the expense of $9,000 voting machine may not be worth it.

A misconception is that the machine keep real-time records of the vote, Director of Finance, Renee Stoyles explains this is not the case, “it keeps a record of how many people have voted, not the election results.” How they work is a voters makes a selection on a voter card and feeds it into the machine. The machine then stores the results in a secure box, at the end of the election the machine displays the results. For the advance polls the cards are all stored and not counted until the close of the entire election. People are still needed to double check the results for accuracy.

“I like having a person count [the ballots],” Councillor Jim Cheverie says he is reassured by the small town process, “it’s a small community and I don’t think we’ve ever had any troubles recruiting people to come and do the counting. It’s an exciting evening. I like having humans do it, as compared to a machine and it’s less expensive.”

The last election cost roughly $10,000 total, including contract workers, supplies, advertising, training, town staff costs, meals, and hall rentals. Should the Town go with automated voting machines the cost is estimated at $18,300.

The Town of Bonnyville held first reading of the Bylaw on March 14th and will advertise the Bylaw for two weeks. During that time, the public is allowed to express its opinion and Council will have some time to decide whether or not to use automated voting machines.