As Bill 231 Creates Major Obstacles Impeding the Use of Accessible Telephone and Internet Voting in Provincial Elections, Some Ontario Municipalities Blaze the Accessibility Trail with These Technologies

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April 27, 2010


Today, the Legislature began the final phase in its consideration of Bill 231, the proposed law to modernize elections in Ontario. During this first day of Third Reading debates, Liberal MPP David Zimmer said the following about what Bill 231 ensures for voters with disabilities:

“Ontarians with disabilities: I want to talk about voting technology as it affects them. We’ve learned a lot about the barriers faced by people with disabilities when they vote. We’re bringing forward ways to break down these barriers. The use of voting technology could allow electors with disabilities to vote privately and independently. Bill 231 would require the Chief Electoral Officer to use accessible voting equipment in returning office advanced polls starting with the 2011 election. This is a very significant change to the voting process. It puts Ontario at the cutting edge of these issues.

It is our responsibility to ensure that even as the voting system evolves, it maintains the highest level of security. Indeed, this goes to the very heart of our democracy. We recognize that as technology evolves, additional voting methods may become as secure as the equipment that Bill 231 requires. That’s why we have created a process that would allow the Chief Electoral Officer to direct the use of an alternative voting method if certain conditions are met. These are the conditions: Successful testing at a by-election; protecting the integrity and security of the voting process; consulting with parties, experts and members of the public; and—and this is important—approval by a legislative committee after public hearings. This meets the key shared objectives. It would create a process for voting methods to evolve with technology, it would ensure that the integrity and security of elections is maintained, and it would require that there be significant opportunities for public input, including experts in the field of alternative voting methods. To make sure that we’re on the right track here, the Chief Electoral Officer would also be required to conduct a comprehensive review and report on alternative voting technologies by June 30, 2013. Voters with disabilities, and indeed all electors, need to vote privately and independently. And they need to be sure that the voting method they are using counts a vote the way it was cast. We are confident that the measures taken in Bill 231 would meet these requirements.

Let me take a few minutes now and speak to additional access measures. As important as new voting equipment and other voting technologies are for accessibility, there is more that must be done to enhance access. That’s why we also strengthened Bill 231 by requiring that all polling places be accessible to people with disabilities. We know that people with disabilities require greater transparency and more accountability, and that additional opportunities for input are necessary. That’s why the Chief Electoral Officer would be required to publish proposed voting locations six months in advance of a scheduled general election and invite public comment on those locations. This would allow members of the public, particularly electors with disabilities, to provide input before any final decisions are made about where to locate polling places. After every election, the Chief Electoral Officer would also be required to report about the steps taken to ensure accessible, barrier-free elections in Ontario. All reports and election related materials provided by the Chief Electoral Officer must be made available to people with disabilities in an accessible format. This bill would provide more opportunities than ever before for people with disabilities in this province to participate in the voting process and to offer their advice and input about how to make elections work better for everyone here in this province.”

We offer some reflections on this statement.

Mr. Zimmer said: “Voters with disabilities, and indeed all electors, need to vote privately and independently. And they need to be sure that the voting method they are using counts a vote the way it was cast.” Yet all voters with disabilities will not be assured this in the 2011 election. Indeed, under Bill 231, they may never be assured this. Technology that would assure this is banned. To try to lift that ban, we must overcome a series of legislative barriers.

Concerning the options of telephone and internet voting, Mr. Zimmer also stated: “It is our responsibility to ensure that even as the voting system evolves, it maintains the highest level of security. Indeed, this goes to the very heart of our democracy. We recognize that as technology evolves, additional voting methods may become as secure as the equipment that Bill 231 requires. “

There is a striking contrast at the municipal level. Bill 231 does not ban network-connected accessible voting technology in municipal elections. As far back as 2006, the Town of Cobourg, Ontario let its residents vote by telephone or over the internet, as an alternative to the traditional paper ballot, if they wished.

The Clerk of Cobourg, Ms. Lorraine Brace, has final responsibility for municipal elections in that municipality. She told us the following about their experience in 2006:

“According to statistical data from the 2006 Municipal Election in Cobourg there was a 45% participation rate. Out of 15,475 eligible voters, 6,951 persons voted; of that group 3,075 voted on the website, 752 used the IVR (telephone voting) and 3,124 voted manually. We are aiming to increase the voter turnout overall in 2010 and through an effective education campaign increase the awareness of the benefits of telephone and internet voting for the electors.”

Because their experience with telephone and internet voting was such a success, Cobourg has decided to again use these technologies in the upcoming 2010 municipal election. Indeed, it is our understanding from Ms. Brace that Cobourg is now dispensing with the paper ballot altogether. Below we set out the report to the Town of Cobourg on the 2006 election that has led to the plan to again use this accessible technology in the upcoming 2010 municipal election.

This shows that Bill 231’s provisions on accessible voting technology do not put “Ontario at the cutting edge of these issues.”, as Liberal MPP David Zimmer had said in the Legislature today. Rather, the Province of Ontario lags years behind the Town of Cobourg, Ontario.

Also set out below is an article published on the website of an on-line publication called “Your Ottawa Region.” It describes the expanding use of electronic voting in municipalities in Ontario.

We have no indication that before deciding to bring forward its proposed ban on telephone and internet voting, the McGuinty Government had studied the use of this technology at the municipal level, to find out if there is any reality to its fears about the safety and security of that access technology.

We urge Elections Ontario to promptly study the experience with this technology in the upcoming municipal elections. We also urge Elections Ontario to be prepared to test pilot telephone and internet voting in the next by-election that arises in Ontario.

Near the end of the day today, we were informed that Bill 231 will likely be called for a second day of Third Reading debates tomorrow, April 28, 2010 from 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. If the debate concludes then, the bill will be voted on after Question Period tomorrow morning. If the debate does not conclude at that time, it is expected to resume on Thursday, April 29, 2010 at 4 pm.

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TO: Members of Council
FROM: Manager of Legislative Services

SUBJECT: Municipal Elections – 2010 Electronic Voting Methods

DATE: October 21, 2009

The Municipal Elections Act (MEA) provides the statutory authority for the municipal clerk to prepare for and conduct municipal elections. The involvement by a municipal council in election procedures is very limited to obviously avoid political interference with the integrity of the election process and conflicts of interest.

The MEA authorizes alternative voting methods that do not require voters to attend a polling place. In 2006, the Corporation provided a totally integrated electoral system for the Corporation which enabled an elector to choose from a range of voting options: 1) vote by touch tone telephone, 2) internet voting, or 3) traditional attendance at a polling location.

After the successful transition to alternative voting methods, staff (in consultation with the former Municipal Clerk) investigated other available voting technologies with the objectives of making voting as convenient as possible for electors while at the same time ensuring reliability, security and the integrity of election procedures. As was the experience in 2006 it is anticipated that participation in the electoral process and voter turnout would increase as a result of more convenient, tried and tested methods.

The proposal for the 2010 municipal election is to provide a totally integrated electronic voting system which will eliminate traditional attendance at a polling station and would reduce the number of polling locations for paper ballot voting by establishing a central polling location with trained staff to assist the voters by providing the opportunity for the elector to vote by internet.

According to a recent article published by AMCTO in the November/December 2009 edition of the Municipal Monitor the following are listed as benefits of electronic voting:

“Internet voting:

  • Accurate Count
  • No voting locations, therefore reduced staffing requirements
  • Anytime, anywhere voting during the voting period
  • Eliminates traditional advance voting
  • No proxies
  • Results within 10-20 minutes on Election Day after 8:00 p.m.
  • No over votes (images of ballots can be produced)
  • Audit trail
  • No subjectivity relating to the count/recount
  • Longer voting period

Telephone Voting:

  • Accurate Count
  • Easier Access
  • Anytime, anywhere voting during the voting period
  • Eliminates traditional advance voting
  • No proxies
  • Results within 10-20 minutes on Election Day after 8:00 p.m.
  • No subjectivity relating to count/recount.”

Some of the features and benefits of this voting system are as follows:

  • the voting period would be extended over a period of a number of days for electronic voting to provide greater flexibility for electors;
  • with the electronic voting options an elector may vote from anywhere where there is a touch tone telephone (including cell phone and PDAs) or an internet connection;
  • a toll free telephone number is provided for telephone voting;
  • an elector may initiate voting using one electronic method and complete the voting using the other electronic method;
  • electors confirm their choices prior to registering their vote when voting electronically.

Electors are mailed an information package that provides instructions and voting method options, a list of candidates and an assigned personal identification number (PIN). An extensive information campaign will be provided to assist electors with the 2010 procedures.

Once an elector has voted by the electronic voting method, the PIN becomes disabled and cannot be used to vote by any other method.

Candidates have the ability to access an on-line voters list and determine during the election period which electors have “attended the electronic polling station” but obviously not how an elector has voted.

Various alternative voting method suppliers have been researched. Building upon the successful integrated voting solution Intelivote and Cobourg delivered during the 2006 municipal election it was determined that Intelivote Systems Inc. should provide voter services in 2010. As with the 2006 election, Intelivote will provide a full service voting solution that addresses the specific voting requirements of the Town of Cobourg at the base services fee of $2.00 per eligible voter (same rate as 2006). The offer includes new accessibility and advanced technology features required for the 2010 municipal election. Therefore, it will not be difficult to determine the costs of conducting the upcoming municipal election. I am confident the alternative voting methods may be accommodated within the allocation set aside in the election reserve account.

As a result of the positive feedback and experience with the 2006 supplier it is recommended that an agreement be prepared and arrangements be made with Intelivote Systems Inc. to provide the voter system technological capabilities to meet all of the requirements of the MEA and the municipality for the 2010 election.

Intelivote Systems Inc. has an excellent demonstration of the internet and telephone voting procedures on its website at should you wish to view the demonstration.

Although the responsibility for establishing election procedures and conducting the election is that of the municipal clerk, as required by the Municipal Elections Act, Council enacted By-law 027-2006 being a by-law to authorize the use of alternative voting methods at municipal elections.

Stephen Beamish, Vice President, Intelivote Systems Inc. will be attending the Committee of the Whole Meeting on October 26, 2009 and will be available to answer any questions Council may have regarding internet and telephone voting procedures used in 2006 and those proposed for the 2010 Municipal Election.

As noted above, the objective of providing alternative voting methods is to make the election as convenient as possible for electors while at the same time maintaining the integrity of the election process.

Recommendation: That the 2010 Election Report be received for information and that Council authorize and exemption to the Purchasing By-law to appoint Intelivote Systems Inc. to provide internet and telephone voter services for the Town of Cobourg 2010 Municipal Election at the same rate of $2.00 per eligible voter as levied in 2006.

Manager of Legislative Services

p.c. Stephen Peacock, Chief Administrative Officer
Ian. D. Davey, Director of Corporate Services


Electronic Voting on the Rise

Renfrew undecided whether to go electronic

Alternative voting method. Stephen Beamish of Dartmouth-based Intelivote addresses Renfrew council. The business will provide electronic voting systems for about 30 Ontario municipalities in the October 2010 election Steve Newman

Forget about the old paper ballot. Several Renfrew County municipalities are making the move to electronic voting for the October 2010 municipal election.

Renfrew may also make the move, but town clerk Kim Bulmer is still weighing the pros and cons of converting to electronic voting, which means voting entirely on the Internet or by telephone.

Stephen Beamish of Dartmouth-based Intelivote, which offers alternative voting solutions in Canada and internationally, addressed town council Monday night. It was the second time he has spoken to some council members and staff, but all council members seemed impressed by the security features and the user-friendly method of voting.

Beamish spent part of his presentation showing how one would cast his or her ballot, and how safety features eliminate the possibility of spoiled ballots.

Options, when voting, also include being able to cast no votes on portions of the ballot, and a full or partial number of votes where the voter is asked to vote for more than one candidate.

Already, McNab-Braeside, Laurentian Valley, Whitewater Region and Pembroke have decided to move to electronic voting for the Oct. 25, 2010 municipal election.

Electronic voting is the new wave, says John Baird, Laurentian Valley Township chief administrative officer and Renfrew resident.


Laurentian Valley would have spent about $38,000 on staff to count ballots and handle other assorted duties during the election. The switch to Intelivote will save about $6,000, says Baird, whose township has about 8,500 voters.

The electronic system also saves a lot of time and paper, says Baird.

Instead of waiting several hours to count ballots, immediate, auditable results should be finalized within 30 minutes of the polls closing.

Bulmer says the move would result in minimal savings for Renfrew, which would have some costs over and above a $17,000 Intelivote bill.

“As the clerk, and looking at accessibility issues which the province has mandated us to look it, it’s something we have to look at,” said Bulmer.

Bulmer has yet to bring a recommendation forward to council for approval, but expects to make one at the next briefing session, on May 3.

Reproduced from–electronic-voting-on-the-rise