The Chronicle-Journal

Thunder Bay, Canada


Cases stated for manual vote count


By Stephanie MacLellan - The Chronicle-Journal


May 05, 2005


Residents who came to a town hall meeting Wednesday about the way municipal election ballots are counted wanted guarantees against vote tampering, lower election costs and more information about the machines that count votes in Thunder Bay.


The city has used electronic voting machines for the past three elections, but they have come under fire from the public for the last year and a half after concerns about technical glitches in the November 2003 election.


One candidate from that election, Eric Leat, brought an appeal to have the ballots counted manually to the Superior Court, but his appeal was denied.


More recently, Coun. Lawrence Timko called on city administration to return to manual counting.


About 60 people attended Wednesday’s meeting, moderated by Timko.


At least three residents who spoke were defeated candidates from the last municipal election, including former councillor Orville Santa.


Santa said it cost more than $100,000 less to run the last municipal election in Sault Ste. Marie, which uses manual voting, compared to Thunder Bay. But city solicitor Rosalie Evans disputed his figures, saying it wasn’t clear if the same costs were included in both sets of numbers.


Santa questioned the transparency of an election where scrutineers couldn’t examine physical ballots.


“If the process is corrupted, people may not believe in the council that’s elected, and that’s a terrible blight,” he said.


Nathan Hewitson, a deputy returning officer in the federal election, echoed his comments. That election relied on manual voting.


“Scrutineers get to see every ballot,” Hewitson said. “They can keep a tally of their own, and walk out with complete confidence in the vote.”


Several people expressed concerns that the machines could be programmed to alter vote results.


Evans conceded that the counting machines could, in theory, be programmed, but said city staff don’t get the source code needed to alter programming.


John Buetow was more concerned with getting statistics about the machines, like how accurate they are.


“I don’t see why anybody in Nebraska (where the company that designs and programs the machines is based) would be interested in supporting one candidate over another in the City of Thunder Bay,” he said. “I want facts and figures. We can’t re-run the last election.”


Evans said the city clerk’s office is looking at other electronic voting machines to replace the current ones, but has not yet reached any conclusions that would prompt the purchase of new ones.


Copyright © 2004 The Chronicle-Journal



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