Kimberley election going electronic

Voting machine will have election results about 20 minutes after polls close

Your voting experience will be a little different in the next municipal election in November 2014. Not only will you be selecting your municipal politicians for a four-year term rather than a three, but you will be doing so with an electronic voting machine.

Council voted this week to lease Elections Systems and Software Automated Voting Machines at a cost of $6,560 plus 50 per cent costs for on-site training (split with the City of Cranbrook). There is also an option to purchase the machine if they prove effective.

The benefits of the automated voting machines are quick and accurate counting of ballots, giving election results within 20 minutes after the closing of the polls; reduction in election costs because of reduced payroll; reduction in human error when large number of candidates are on the ballot and immediate feedback to the elector in the case of spoiled ballots, giving the elector an opportunity to correct their ballot.

Here’s how it works. A ballot would list all candidates for Mayor, Council, School Trustee and referendum questions if required. The elector marks the ballot in a voting booth, slides it into a security folder, which is inserted into the voting machine. The voting machine pulls the ballot from the folder, scans the results, then drops the ballot into a secure ballot box.

An election worker would be at the one machine to direct and assist electors.

A total of $28,000 has been budgeted for the next election (the same cost as 2011) but it is anticipated that it will cost less with the electronic machine, as far less staff would be required to work the election.

Coun. Albert Hoglund welcomed the change, saying in previous elections, results often didn’t come in until well after midnight.

“I’ll vote for it if it works,” he said. “If it works the way it’s supposed to work. I’ve got an IPad right here that doesn’t work.”

CAO Scott Sommerville said one of the main advantages was that you weren’t relying on people already fatigued from working a 12-hour shift to count ballots.

Coun. Kent Goodwin was worried about a bottleneck at the polls with only one machine. He was assured by Sommerville that advance voting would be heavily promoted.

Coun. Jack Ratcliffe said he was sure the machine would save money but asked what would happen to portable polls such as though conducted at the Pines.

Those, he was told, would be operated like a mail ballot with a sealed envelope. They would be slid through the machine on the evening of the election.

“We are not committing to purchasing them,” said Mayor Ron McRae. “It depends how it goes. I’m not sure we would decided to buy them given the next election would be four years down the road and the machines may be obsolete at that point.”