MD looks at options for 2017 muncipal election

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The MD of Bonnyville will be making some changes for the upcoming municipal election, and are hoping to see more residents out voting.

During their Feb. 8 meeting, councillors were shown last election’s voter turnout, prompting discussion. Of the 13,000 people in the MD, 9,200 were eligible to vote in 2013. Of those 9,200, only 22 per cent actually cast a ballot.

For the 2013 election, 15 polling stations were used throughout the MD of Bonnyville. However, some saw a low number of voters, including the Bonnyville Seniors’ Drop-In Centre, which had 16 people utilize that poll. The Alexander Recreational Society only saw 11 voters.

One of the factors believed to be causing the low turnout is that the councillors for wards three, four, and five were acclaimed. This meant residents voting in those wards only had a say in who becomes reeve.

“When you look at those wards, there’s not a councillor being elected. Even though they’re still voting for a reeve at that time, if we turn around and add that to the fact that they have to travel three quarters of an hour to vote, some of them will just not bother,” explained Reeve Ed Rondeau.

This year’s election will take place on Monday, Oct. 16, 2017 with the deadline for nominations on Monday, Sept. 18.

Esther Quiambao, census coordinator for the MD, presented the plans for the 2017 election to council. In last of last election’s results, she discussed the idea of cutting out the polling stations at the drop-in centre and Alexander hall.

“I would like to propose having 13 polling stations, which would mean we have three to four per ward,” explained Quiambao.

However, council disagreed, stating that although the two stations only saw a total of 27 voters, they felt it’s important to keep them open for those people.

To expedite the process of counting votes, the MD will be moving to an electronic system.

This equipment for electronic voting will cost between $1,000 and $3,000 per unit, which the MD expects will come to a total of $20,000 to outfit all polling stations. Council previously budgeted $30,000 for this project.

The system will have voters mark their selection on a paper ballot, which is then scanned and electronically counted. They believe this will allow for speedy results, less human error, and fewer rejected ballots.

Coun. David Fox voiced his concern during the presentation, inquiring about what will happen if one of the machines goes down at a voting station.

Chris Cambridge, CAO for the MD, explained that it is a concern and it would cause for some delays, but added that it’s very rare to have one of the machines break down.

Council ultimately voted in favour of moving to the electronic voting system.

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