Mark­ing a dig­i­tal ‘X’

Vot­ing goes pa­per­less for elec­tions in Welles­ley, Wool­wich town­ships

The Woolwich Observer - - FRONT PAGE - VERON­ICA REINER

WHEN WOOL­WICH AND WELLES­LEY vot­ers head to the polls next month, they’ll be do­ing so with­out tra­di­tional pa­per bal­lots. It’s a first for the town­ships.

With the mu­nic­i­pal elec­tion vot­ing pe­riod open­ing up in less than two weeks – elec­tion day is Oc­to­ber 22, but vot­ing starts Oc­to­ber 9 – the pub­lic will be pre­sented with tele­phone or on­line vot­ing op­tions.

“We’re find­ing more and more mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties do­ing this across the prov­ince,” said Jeff Smith, deputy clerk for the Town­ship of Wool­wich, on what prompted the de­ci­sion to go pa­per­less. “It was al­most dou­bling each year we looked at it. Our es­ti­mate this year is about 200 mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties are us­ing in­ter­net and tele­phone vot­ing in some way for this elec­tion.”

“The in­spi­ra­tion be­hind chang­ing the vot­ing method in the Town­ship of Welles­ley was the abil­ity to pro­vide our res­i­dents a more con­ve­nient, ac­ces­si­ble, flex­i­ble op­por­tu­nity to vote,” added Amy Har­ron, deputy clerk for the Town­ship of Welles­ley. “We hope hav­ing the abil­ity to cast your bal­lot any­time dur­ing the 14-day vot­ing pe­riod will en­cour­age el­i­gi­ble elec­tors to par­tic­i­pate in the elec­tion.”

The vot­ing pe­riod will open up on Oc­to­ber 9 at 10 a.m. and close on Oc­to­ber 22 at 8 p.m. Vot­ers can cast their bal­lot at any

time, 24/7 dur­ing that time­frame.

For those with­out in­ter­net ac­cess or touch­tone phone, there will be elec­tion cen­tres open on the last day of vot­ing at the Wool­wich ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fice, Welles­ley ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fice, Wool­wich Me­mo­rial Cen­tre, Bres­lau Com­mu­nity Cen­tre, and St. Ja­cobs fire sta­tion.

“It’s a re­li­able and se­cure vot­ing method – it’s been used for over ten years in On­tario,” ex­plained Smith of the ad­van­tages of the new method.

“There are se­cu­rity con­trols to en­sure that each bal­lot is se­cret and pro­tected. It’s ac­ces­si­ble, so if an elec­tor is away on per­sonal travel, if you’re suf­fer­ing from an ill­ness, if you work day or nights and find tra­di­tional vot­ing hours in­con­ve­nient, or if you are a per­son with a dis­abil­ity, you can cast your bal­lot from any­where with an in­ter­net con­nec­tion or tele­phone.”

It is also en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly, sav­ing elec­tors gas money to travel to vot­ing lo­ca­tions and by not us­ing pa­per. Re­sults of the elec­tion will also be tab­u­lated much quicker.

“It is very fast, very con­ve­nient,” said Smith. “We are hop­ing we will see the re­sults shortly af­ter 8 o’clock. We’re not see­ing re­sults any ear­lier than 8:15, but it should be quite a bit faster than a hand­counted set of re­sults.”

Both Town­ships have taken ini­tia­tives to raise aware­ness of this new vot­ing sys­tem through the use of ad­ver­tise­ments, so­cial me­dia, no­ti­fi­ca­tions on the mu­nic­i­pal web­sites, and word-of-mouth at var­i­ous events. Wool­wich will also be vis­it­ing in­sti­tu­tional re­tire­ment homes in the area to as­sist se­niors with vot­ing.

Res­i­dents of the town­ships should re­ceive a voter in­for­ma­tion let­ter in the mail by Oc­to­ber 9 with all of the in­for­ma­tion needed to cast a vote, in­clud­ing a voter ID and PIN. Elec­tors will also use their birth year to ver­ify their iden­tity and sign off on an oath of dec­la­ra­tion.

If vot­ers do not re­ceive the let­ter, they are en­cour­aged to re­quest a new one at the ap­pli­ca­ble town­ship ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fice. More in­for­ma­tion can be found at www. wool­wich.ca/elec­tion or www.welles­ley.ca/elec­tion. Al­ter­na­tively, the voter helpline is 519-669-6049 (Wool­wich) or 519-6993968 (Welles­ley).

[VERON­ICA REINER / THE OB­SERVER]

Wool­wich deputy clerks Jeff Smith and clerk Val Hum­mel are over­see­ing the tran­si­tion to dig­i­tal vot­ing, en­cour­ag­ing res­i­dents to em­brace the avail­able op­tions.

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