Wasted votes sig­nal trou­ble

The Glengarry News - - The Opinion Page - - Richard Ma­honey richard@glen­gar­rynews.ca

Al­ways care­fully read the in­struc­tions, some as­sem­bly is re­quired, the per­sonal ap­proach works, a last­ing pres­ence is im­por­tant, and ex­pect the un­ex­pected. Those are just of some of the nuggets of wisdom that were re­tained in the wake of the mu­nic­i­pal coun­cil and school board elec­tions.

Caveat emp­tor. The “buyer beware” motto could be ex­tended to voter aware­ness con­sid­er­ing the con­fused state some elec­tors found them­selves in when they went to cast bal­lots to choose the trustee who will rep­re­sent Glen­garry and Stor­mont on the Up­per Canada District School Board for the next four years.

All elec­tors should care­fully read the in­struc­tions, or voter in­for­ma­tion let­ters, be­fore cast­ing bal­lots on­line.

At least one North Glen­garry voter, Bob Proulx, who also un­suc­cess­fully ran for deputy mayor, was pre­vented from vot­ing for trustee be­cause on his voter iden­ti­fi­ca­tion card, the School Sup­port box read, “No sup­port.” He had al­ready logged in and logged out. Clang! He couldn’t re-en­ter the vot­ing site.

When he con­tacted the town­ship, to ex­plain the er­ror and hope­fully have his right to vote for trustee rec­og­nized, he was told that noth­ing could be done. “You didn’t read the card.”

Ob­vi­ously, in or­der to pre­vent vote-rig­ging, once that vir­tual door has been opened and closed, there is no way to get back in.

The town­ship said it had re­ceived few such com­plaints and all went well con­sid­er­ing that 8,000 voter ID cards were sent out.

It is the re­spon­si­bil­ity of the in­di­vid­u­als to en­sure that all in­for­ma­tion on their iden­ti­fi­ca­tion let­ters are ac­cu­rate.

But ev­ery time there is a she­moz­zle, the in­tegrity of the sys­tem is called into ques­tion, and there is sus­pi­cion that some evil force is try­ing to in­ter­fere with democ­racy or steal your thoughts.

An un­in­tended con­tender

An­other ex­am­ple of the need for en­hanced voter ed­u­ca­tion is the fact that Jim Ban­croft, who was no longer a can­di­date, got 1,825 votes. Thank­fully, he gar­nered much less than the win­ner John Dana­her, who re­ceived 4,086 and Mar­shall Wil­son, who fin­ished with 2,178.

Back on Oc­to­ber 1, more than two weeks be­fore on­line vot­ing could be­gin, Mr. Ban­croft, the for­mer mayor of South Stor­mont, an­nounced he was with­draw­ing from the con­test. While it was too late to have his name erased from the bal­lot, he hoped that by an­nounc­ing his with­drawal well in ad­vance of the elec­tion, tax­pay­ers would have the “op­por­tu­nity to re­view the in­for­ma­tion on the other candidates” be­fore cast­ing their bal­lots. Well, ap­par­ently, 1,825 peo­ple did not get that mes­sage.

Candidates had to with­draw be­fore July 27 to get out of the races; in the past, the dead­line to pull out was in Septem­ber.

For­tu­nately, any de­bate over non-can­di­date rules was aca­demic be­cause Mr. Dana­her scored a clear vic­tory. Even if all of the Ban­croft votes had gone to Mr. Wil­son, the re­sult would have been the same.

Yet, with all the fancy doo-dads at our dis­posal one would think it would be easy to delete one name from a list of candidates.

Any­way, de­spite the glitches, the sit­u­a­tion was much worse else­where: In 51 On­tario mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties vot­ers were al­lowed sev­eral ad­di­tional hours or even an ex­tra day to vote be­cause of elec- tion night sna­fus. There was a bot­tle­neck in cy­berspace be­cause a ser­vice provider placed a cap on voter traf­fic.

A 2017 study into the pos­si­bil­ity of us­ing on­line vot­ing at the fed­eral level noted that the tech­nol­ogy prom­ises to de­liver the great­est ben­e­fits and threat­ens to pose the great­est risks.

The re­port cited ev­i­dence at the mu­nic­i­pal level that on­line vot­ers are sat­is­fied with the vot­ing method and a ma­jor­ity of pa­per bal­lot vot­ers would like to have it of­fered as a com­ple­men­tary vot­ing op­tion.

Con­ve­nience, ac­ces­si­bil­ity and count­ing ef­fi­ciency are cited as the main ben­e­fits to on­line vot­ing; pub­lic outreach and ed­u­ca­tion, neg­a­tive me­dia and the po­ten­tial for fraud are the big­gest chal­lenges.

Se­cu­rity ex­perts cau­tion that it is the Wild West out there, warn­ing that we have no idea where our in­for­ma­tion is be­ing cached. Yet, life is no big gam­ble and a huge mys­tery. Ev­ery time we turn on a de­vice, we don’t re­ally know who is try­ing to in­flu­ence us or sell us some­thing.

One cer­tainty is that on­line vot­ing in Glen­garry has been easy and quick, most of the time.

Un­for­tu­nately, a huge per­cent­age of elec­tors con­tin­ues to not even bother tak­ing part in elec­tions.

The turnout was about 60 per cent in South Glen­garry while in North Glen­garry, about 43 per cent of el­i­gi­ble vot­ers chose the politi­cians who will rep­re­sent them for the next four years.

Pol­i­tics is per­sonal and re­quires some as­sem­bly, as in a gather­ing of peo­ple.

The per­sonal touch is ef­fec­tive, ev­i­denced by the re­cep­tion candidates re­ceive when they and their teams go door-to-door. Can­vass­ing, par­tic­u­larly in ru­ral ar­eas where long laneways are the norm, de­mands com­mit­ment and time.

Vot­ers ap­pre­ci­ate the ef­fort ex­pended by hope­fuls who are will­ing to go that ex­tra kilo­me­tre to woo them.

To be suc­cess­ful, candidates need to as­sem­ble a group of sup­port­ers who will dis­trib­ute fly­ers, put up signs and cheer in all the ap­pro­pri­ate places when the candidates are mak­ing speeches.

Most of the win­ners started the cam­paign with a “base” be­cause they had pre­vi­ously worked on a com­mit­tee of some sort to cham­pion a cause. Name recog­ni­tion helps, as ev­i­denced by Mr. Ban­croft’s pop­u­lar­ity.

Fa­mil­iar­ity also worked for Mr. Dana­her, a well-known re­tired ed­u­ca­tor.

De­spite so­cial me­dia, old-fash­ioned signs that en­sure a last­ing pres­ence along­side roads are still use­ful.

The world is rapidly chang­ing yet some conventions and cus­toms never die. There will al­ways be some voter ID mix-ups and tech­ni­cal dif­fi­cul­ties but democ­racy still is work­ing as well as can be ex­pected.

Non-can­di­date re­ceived 1,825 votes

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