Elec­tronic only vot­ing wor­ries se­niors

The London Free Press - - REGION - LOUIS PIN Sar­nia Ob­server

SAR­NIA — Sar­nia vot­ers will be cast­ing their bal­lots dur­ing the next 10 days, but one of the most re­li­able vot­ing groups — se­niors — are wor­ried the city’s new elec­tronic vot­ing sys­tem will leave them voice­less.

“It is a con­cern,” said Diana Bradley, a long­time voter in Sar­nia. “My com­puter’s old. I worry about (whether) it’s go­ing to work the day I want to use it.”

Sar­nia and most Lambton County mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties are us­ing only elec­tronic vot­ing, ei­ther by tele­phone or on­line. City and county staff have tried to pre­pare vot­ers, es­pe­cially se­niors, in the months lead­ing up to elec­tion day on Oct. 22.

But for all their good in­ten­tions, some con­cerns re­main.

“We’ve def­i­nitely heard peo­ple talk­ing about it,” said Re­becca Mills, ac­tiv­ity co-or­di­na­tor with Strang­way Com­mu­nity Cen­tre. “We had a few sem­i­nars in the sum­mer . . . but I think with any sort of change . . . peo­ple get con­cerned.”

There are other fac­tors as well. Miss­ing voter iden­ti­fi­ca­tion cards, sup­posed to be mailed out be­fore the end of Septem­ber, have been the most com­mon com­plaint among se­niors.

And while Sar­nia city hall says glitches in its voter reg­is­tra­tion sys­tem are com­mon and ad­dressed ev­ery year, it com­pounds a dis­trust in the new sys­tem for many se­niors.

“I’d say more than half our res­i­dents never got their (voter no­ti­fi­ca­tion card),” said Natalie Pere­ria, ac­tiv­ity co-or­di­na­tor with the Vil­lage on the St. Clair retirement home. “(That’s) the thing they’re wor­ried about the most.”

On Wednesday, Sar­nia City Hall opened its doors late to help peo­ple sign up to vote. While turnout was spo­radic at best, as­sis­tance will nev­er­the­less re­main at city hall through­out the elec­tion pe­riod. There also will be peo­ple in city hall on elec­tion day to help peo­ple more com­fort­able with get­ting out to vote.

Roughly 5.2 per cent of Sar­nia’s pop­u­la­tion, or a lit­tle more than 2,600 peo­ple, cast their vir­tual bal­lots on the first day of ad­vance vot­ing Thurs­day.

The city also will bring tech­nol­ogy to retirement homes dur­ing the next week.

“We send teams dur­ing the vot­ing pe­riod,” Fred Tran­quilli, clerk in Strathroy-Caradoc, said. “Start­ing Mon­day, we set up elec­tronic vot­ing sta­tions at one of the lo­cal se­nior res­i­dences, and we ba­si­cally walk through the build­ing with a tablet and help any­one who needs to vote.”

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