Report on Voting at Municipal Election

At the Committee of the Whole meeting on January 7, Town Clerk Brent Larmer will present a report on the recent Municipal election including statistics and possible changes for the next election in 2022.  At the time, there were a few reports of difficulties and Brent has addressed these in his report.  Improvements suggested include upgrading voter list accuracy, expanding the number of days for voting, removing telephone voting but adding additional Voter Help Centres (in person voting locations) and improved communications.  The turnout was low at 43.6% although it was better than the Provincial average of 37.7%. But overall, Brent declared the 2018 Municipal Election a success since it “demonstrated convenience, efficiency, accessibility and a cost benefit to the ratepayers and electors of the Municipality”.

Suzanne Seguin interviewed by Cogeco
Suzanne Seguin interviewed by Cogeco

On election day (Oct 22) results were promptly announced 45 minutes after the close of voting.  Local Cable station Cogeco channel 10/700 were able to interview successful Deputy Mayor elect Suzanne Séguin within minutes (see photo).

Brent reports that the election in the only Municipality (City of London) to use ranked ballots (allowed for the first time) could not provide results until the next day, had no increase in turnout, was more expensive and produced results no different than if it used “first past the post”. He does not include ranked ballots in his recommendations but will report further on this before the next election.

Statistics

Participation

  • There were 14,869 eligible voters (the 2016 census gives Cobourg’s population as 19,440)
  • 44.4% of females voted and 43.0% of males voted
  • 89% of females and 91.3% of males used the Internet to vote (This would have included those who voted at Voter Help Centres)
  • 11% of females and 8.7% of males used a phone
  • How people voted was broken down by age – roughly 97% of those under 50 voted by Internet and about 80 to 90% of those older.
  • The number of people who used Voter Help Centres was not reported

Distribution by date

Date Voted
October 15 1032
October 16 683
October 17 482
October 18 465
October 19 431
October 20 347
October 21 747
October 22 2293

Recommendations

Below are some “potential improvements” listed in Brent’s report.

Voter’s List.

The initial list came from MPAC. Staff from Legislative Services then invested a great deal of time cleaning the data and reaching out to landlords. They hosted Voter List Revision sessions and made about 2000 corrections with most of them related to incorrect tenant information. So in addition to urging MPAC to do better, Brent said that “It is evident as it has been in prior years that the Town of Cobourg can no longer solely rely on MPAC for an accurate Voter’s List.” Legislative Services will therefore dedicate a portion of staff time to undertake a continuous review and list-scrubbing activities in order to ensure a higher quality Voter’s List.

Voting Period and Voting Day

Voter Help Centres were set up in Victoria Hall and the Public Library and in six retirement homes.  Voters could then use a computer with a mouse or with a touch screen to vote.  If needed, corrections to the voters list could be made on the spot.

This was also an opportunity to get feedback.  Several people had problems with phone voting; the most common comment to Staff was that electors were not able to vote for all their choices for the ‘At-Large’ selection of Councillor Candidates. The main reason for this was Electors who used the phones were not listening to all of the instructions and where rushing through the process and submitting their ballot when they selected their first choice.

Brent suggests:

  • The voting period be extended by a week.  This would allow more time for Special Voter Help Centres (Retirement and Long­term Care Homes).
  • Removing the telephone option from the alternative voting method. Only 10% use this method and it would avoid “trying to cater to different listening skills”. Additional Voter Help Centres and an extended time frame would effectively provide a traditional voting method for those without access to a computer.

Communications

Some minor improvements would be made to make sure the Town is getting the word out to residents that they need to make sure that they are on the Voter’s List for the 2022 Election earlier in the year and using different modes of communication.

Cost

The cost of the election including the Intelivote contract, advertising and marketing, was $37,880.  The cost in 2014 was $53,580, in 2010 $52,460 and in 2006 $87,900.

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gerinator

I for one am pleased with the recommendation “Removing the telephone option from the alternative voting method”. Online is for me – unless the Russians and or the North Koreans start taking a cyber interest. Then off to the ballot box!

Walter L. Luedtke

Bit early for Mr. Larmer to dismiss ranked voting by referring to the London, Ont. example.
London is the first Canadian municipality to try ranked ballots and teething problems are to be expected.
The London folks were in close contact with the city of Minneapolis, Minnesota, which has run ranked ballots for the third time.
“There, voter turnout has gone up and the composition of city council has changed, said Minneapolis City Clerk Casey Carl.
“We elected our first Latina councillor, our first Asian-American, our first Somali-African-American, and the age range has changed. My council has 13 members, the youngest is 23 and the oldest is 63, so four decades between them,” Carl said.” CBC
The elections have also become cheaper to run in Minneapolis.

Ben

Walter, correct me if I am wrong, O wise one, how do you conduct ranked ballot counting when you want five winners, on the same ballot? The ranked ballots we have sen in Prov leadership races and the one in London only needed one person to be on top. The only way to conduct what you would want to see would be to adopt a ward system for Cobourg. Now that’s worth talking about!

Walter L. Luedtke

Hey, you old warrior. I am not sure I understand it all yet. But I think a ward system for Cobourg could be a winner.

manfred s

just to muddy the already murky waters, what about the electors choosing who sits as head of each portfolio? The ballot would be divided into the 6 council ‘seats’ by their specific areas of responsibility, plus Mayor, and candidates would have to choose and run for ONE option only. That could tend to draw out more ‘specialized talent’ for elections and end up with a more ‘focussed’ council all round. Also takes the selection process out of the hands of unelected officials and puts it in the hands of the electors. The town could publish a site of bios ahead of the actual election, giving us the qualifications of all the candidates as they relate to their chosen option, so choosing seven based on their qualifications for the positions THEY are seeking to fill would be a real step into the future.