City considers electronic voting machines

Grand Forks city council is looking at bringing in automated voting machines for the November election.

Grand Forks city council is looking at bringing in automated voting machines for the November election to help make counting faster and easier.At its May 26 meeting, council received for information the proposed use of automated voting machines for general local elections bylaw No. 2000. First three readings on the bylaw are set for the June 9 regular council meeting.The report from staff stated: “In an effort to make the election process more efficient, staff is proposing the use of automated voting machines for the next municipal election.”The voting machine is designed to be very user friendly for the electors offering a large screen with detailed instructions. The most useful function is that at the end of the voting day a report is generated that gives the municipality, the candidates and the electors the election results very quickly.The cost for the machines is expected to be around $7,600, although the city will save money by spending less on poll clerks as the manual counting process will be eliminated.“It seems like a pretty innocuous machine,” said Mayor Brian Taylor. “It just counts ballot. It seems like it would avoid human error and be saving us a considerable amount of money.”Voters would still fill out ballots with the mayoral candidates, council candidates, and/or school trustee candidates all on one ballot, said Diane Heinrich, city corporate officer.“We intend to get a hold of the software company and see if we can bring the voting machine in here for a demo date,” said Heinrich. “We would invite the public in and they could see for themselves just what it entails.”But says no to Mail-in ballots Grand Forks city council voted against a recommendation from staff to receive for introduction and discussion the proposed use of mail ballot authorization for the general local election.If passed, the proposed bylaw would have seen the first three readings on June 9.The background information to council stated: “In 2008, the legislation was amended to allow local governments to offer mail ballots to persons who expect to be absent from the municipality during normal voting opportunities, in addition, the service is offered to persons who have a physical disability, illness or injury that affects their ability to vote at other voting opportunities.”The mail ballot would not be available to those people who simply didn’t want to attend general voting day or the advanced voting opportunities.Cost for a mail-in ballot is around $30 per ballot package plus postage.“This mail-in ballot really has a lot of pitfalls and I’m uncomfortable at this point without knowing more about it,” said Mayor Brian Taylor while introducing the subject at council. “I think we need to be cautious at this point.”Councillors Neal Krog and Bob Kendel spoke against the motion as well.“I’m not in favour of the mail-in ballots either,” said Kendel. “They seem to have quite a heavy cost to them. If there were a huge segment of the public that need to it that way, I’d look at it. If you’re interested in voting you’ll make an attempt to go to the early ballot before you left to go south for the winter or you’d make the effort to be here for election day.”