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GUEST COLUMN: Council’s failure to consult public on electronic voting disrespectful

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Randy Evans

The realty of electronic voting remains, for many Sarnians, an unacceptable and untrustworthy venture.

To be sure, people are resistant to change, especially fundamental change. But there’s more to this story than human nature.

Perhaps it’s the haste with which the supporting city councillors proceeded, to the exclusion of community input. Many citizens continue to see this decision as disrespectful, for it precluded their ability to express opinions and ask hard questions about electronic voting.

The federal and provincial governments, as well as some major municipalities, have dismissed electronic voting as non-transparent and vulnerable to hacking.

No Sarnia councillor made his or her vote conditional on public input, nor did city managers endorse it.

In fact, in a document entitled “Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Internet/Telephone Voting,” the City Clerk said a public meeting isn’t necessary because it has already been discussed.

As evidence, the Clerk cites a failed effort by council in 2013 to create a citizen committee to increase voter turnout, to which no one applied.

But the fact is, that effort was in regard to the 2014 municipal election only, and nothing was ever said about paper ballots being replaced.

Despite opportunities, at no time did the supporting councillors ask for or grant public input into voting procedures for this year’s election on Oct. 22.

For those of us with questions and concerns, this abject failure stands out. Remember, this is the same council that has sought full public input on everything from tree cutting to dog-park poop.

That lack of public input stings. So does the fact a paper ballot won’t be offered. The adopting bylaw doesn’t exclude a paper ballot option, and at no time has council voted on that option. Instead, the nixing of this deeply historic tradition was delegated to non-elected bureaucrats.

Council approved electronic voting in November, 2016 but it wasn’t until April, 2017 that the City Clerk decreed there would be no paper ballots. Why a five-month delay? Just one more head-scratcher over the way e-voting has been rolled out.

Many Sarnians believe strongly this election should be conducted fully within city boundaries and under the supervision of local scrutineers.

It is to fellow citizens we electors have always entrusted the voting process. We have confidence in overseers who live here and are actually present at polling stations. We trust our neighbours, who are under oath, to fully protect and preserve the physical ballots.

Because of council’s apparent inability to understand these facts, the ballots of Sarnians this year won’t physically exist for review, but will instead be electronic responses controlled by a corporation located 2,065 kilometres away. The company’s supposedly omnipotent machines are located in a non-disclosed and unknown location.

Be assured these pieces of metal and wires will not be transparent nor under oath to faithfully count the votes.

Here’s hoping there are no glitches or problems with this election, because the city does not have a backup plan in place should they arise.

Randy Evans is a Sarnia resident and regular contributor to The Journal

 

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