Vot­ing sys­tem bogs down in town­ships hours be­fore polls close, forc­ing ex­ten­sion

The Woolwich Observer - - NEWS - FAISAL ALI

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.

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