Council hears of success and savings in 2018 election

By Cecilia Nasmith

It is only a coincidence that the five winners in the Cobourg council election were the first five listed alphabetically, Municipal Clerk Brent Larmer reassured council at Monday's committee-of-the-whole meeting.

Councillor Emily Chorley made the enquiry on behalf of fellow councillors Adam Bureau, Aaron Burchat, Brian Darling and Nicole Beatty. She wondered if it was due to difficulties with telephone voting.

Larmer agreed that voting for deputy mayor was a simple matter of choosing between two alternatives, while voting for councillor was a matter of making five selections out of a larger slate of candidates (nine in all). And he pointed out that perhaps a dozen complaints had been received by those telephone voters experiencing difficulties either hearing or operating the system in that format.

But then, he added, only 10% of the votes were cast by phone and 90% on-line.

Mayor John Henderson said he'd heard the same query from someone whose professional background was in analytics, and the person's suggestion was to list names in random order.

In fact, the mayor said, that is not council's decision to make – the provincial elections act states that names must be listed in alphabetical order.

The report Larmer prepared stated that the town contracted with Intelivote Systems Inc. to provide internet and telephone voting services in 2018, but it has been a leader in innovation in this field. It was among the first municipalities (since 2006) to offer alternative voting methods.

Overall demographics (from 32 18- and 19-year-olds to one voter over the age of 99 who voted by phone) show that 43.6% of eligible electors participated.

The report said that Voter Help Centres with touch screens were established within the community, at the Cobourg Public Library and in the Old Bailey Courtroom at Victoria Hall, as well as at six retirement and long-term-care homes. These ran very smoothly, both on election day and in the week leading up to it. There was also a Voter Help Line, whose hours were listed in the voter-information letter sent out.

Recommendations for 2022 include a two-week voting period in advance of election day instead of one week.

Larmer also suggested eliminating the telephone-voting option, largely due to a wide variance in listening skills among eligible voters. Given that not every voter may have access to internet, he said the option of additional Voter Help Centres may be considered.

“This suggestion is no different than the requirement of electors to attend a physical voting location with a traditional allot,” the report said.

The matter of cost was good news. Some $44,308.63 was in the election reserve fund and, to date, costs were $37,882.09.

It breaks down to $1.10 per elector, compared to an original estimate of $1.35 per voter. The difference was that, in 2018, Cobourg was no longer the sole Northumberland municipality working with InteliVote. That was the year when all other county municipalities (except for Cramahe and Brighton) came on board, resulting in efficiencies and savings for all.