Voting system bogs down in townships hours before polls close, forcing extension
A FAIRLY BY-THE-NUMBERS MUNICIPAL election was through dramatically off kilter in the townships, after the exclusively electronic system used by both Woolwich and Wellesley suffered severe slowdowns hours before polls were set to close on Monday.
The unexpected delay forced both townships to extend voting by an additional 24 hours, as hundreds of voters were reportedly unable to cast their ballots through the internet-based system used by both municipalities.
The resulting delay held up not only the final count of the politicians within the townships themselves by 24 hours, but also the election of the regional chair, which is chosen by residents across the Waterloo Region, in all three cities and four townships.
The system crash, which began around approximately 6 p.m. on Monday, just two hours before polls closed, caught municipal staff and candidates alike by surprise. Shortly after 7 p.m., the decision was made to extend voting in Woolwich by 24 hours, and Wellesley similarly followed suit.
“I haven’t even connected with the regional clerk yet, but my assumption is they will hold the results until they get ours. I don’t know. It’s too soon,” said Woolwich Township clerk Val Hummel on Monday, minutes after the decision was made to extend the voting period. “I’m only 10 minutes into this decision, so I don’t know yet what they’re going to do. They have been notified.”
By Tuesday morning, the Region of Waterloo said it would delay calling the election for chair until after the votes from Woolwich and Wellesley had been counted. The final results, released Tuesday at approximately 8:15 p.m., just after the polls closed, saw candidate Karen Redman win by a large margin over her three opponents.
The problem was not just unique to the townships, however, but reportedly affected multiple municipalities in Ontario relying on the same voting service, provided by Dominion Voting Systems. According to a media statement by the company, approximately 51 municipalities across Ontario had been affected by the system malfunctions.
The issue was blamed on an “unauthorized” limit being placed on the voting system’s bandwidth by a Toronto-based internet colocation provider, slowing down the system to a crawl for voters attempting to cast their ballots. The slow speeds caused voters’ browsers to time out before the voting process could be properly completed.
“Our company was unaware of this issue until our municipal customers and their voters reached out to us for assistance, or to share complaints,” said Dominion Voting Systems, in a statement.
“Dominion regrets the challenges that our sys-
tem load issue posed for both election officials and voters alike in today’s elections... We want to assure Ontario voters that we will work to ensure this problem does not occur in future elections. It is important to note that at no time was the integrity of the system at risk of compromise, or in any way insecure.”
Both the Townships of Woolwich and Wellesley had contracted Dominion’s voting service for a cost based on the number of voters registered in each municipality. For Woolwich, the cost was given as $1.50 per registered voter, for an estimated $28,350, based on an approximate 18,900 electors. The Township of Wellesley had agreed a price of $1.65 per eligible elector.
Whether the townships would seek financial compensation or a reduced rate from Dominion Systems was not yet clear.