Editor’s note: this story has been updated with additional financial information
Sarnia’s move to electronic voting in the 2018 municipal election has evoked grumbling and alarm among some residents, but city staff say they’re making every effort to accommodate each and every registered voter.
The great strength of eVoting over paper ballots is the flexibility it provides, says Sarnia’s clerk.
“We want to emphasize that people can vote from home or anywhere … with any device that enables Internet,” said Dianne Gould-Brown.
While it’s not well known, there will be three or four voting stations set up across the city for those without an Internet connection, or for those who prefer the social traditions of election day.
One-day mobile voting kiosks will also visit city retirement and rest homes, and votes can be cast at city library branches throughout the voting period.
Voting will begin at midnight on Oct. 11 and continue until polls close at 8 p.m. on Oct. 22. The results will be available almost immediately.
The city is planning a number of information sessions leading up to the election, with live demonstrations of the process to help reduce confusion and concerns.
Eligible voters will receive a letter weeks in advance containing a unique number key. When voting, they will be asked to provide a secondary credential, such as a date of birth, to confirm their identity.
When voting online, the screen will display the ballot. But instead of checking boxes with a pencil voters will click a mouse to select candidates for mayor, city and county councillors, and school board trustees.
If voting by phone, you would enter the unique number key and credential on the keypad. The process should take two to three minutes.
The city has hired Intelivote to run the technical side of things. The company’s security features were a big reason it was selected during the RFP process, said Sarnia’s deputy clerk.
“What they talk about is a number of security concerns that are out there, and how they’ve addressed them,” James Jenkins said.
City staff say eVoting will also be cheaper. Intelivote’s services are $130,219 and marketing, equipment leasing and extra staff will likely add $40,000 to the tab. Another $30,000 is earmarked for auditing services.
That’s about the same as $204,333 the 2014 election cost, but had the city gone with paper ballots again it would have also necessitated replacing the city’s aging tabulators, Gould-Brown said.
On the night of Oct. 22, the results will be received by the city clerk, Intelivote and a third-party auditor.
The lack of a paper ballot backup has raised concerns about security and hackers, especially on social media. The company’s president recently told The Journal he has complete confidence in the technology.
“You can’t really be in this industry and do a half-assed job on security,” Dean Smith said. “That really is job number one.”
Intelivote will be the vendor of 93 other municipal elections in Ontario next year, and conducts 75 to 80 Canadian elections annually.
In addition to Sarnia, Point Edward, Oil Springs, Petrolia, Lambton Shores, Warwick and Plympton-Wyoming are also using Intelivote.