Huntsville Mayor says he’s done with online elections

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Online voting could become a thing of the past if Huntsville Mayor Scott Aitchison has anything to do with it.

Aitchison said he is frustrated with repeated problems associated with online voting and would prefer to see the exercise discarded entirely.

“I don’t think we should do online elections again. I wasn’t really excited about doing it this time, but council thought it would make sense. I just think that there are more effective ways to make sure that people who don’t live here full-time have an opportunity to vote, without using an online system,” he said, adding that the municipality has tried two different companies “and they’ve both failed us, frankly.”

He said his level of frustration is at a point where he does not believe the company used to carry out online elections last month should be paid in full.

“I don’t know if we’ve paid the entire bill to Dominion but I certainly wouldn’t support paying it because they didn’t deliver what they promised they could,” said Aitchison.

Problems with the online voting system during municipal elections last month resulted in some municipalities having to extend voting by a day. There were a myriad of complaints including reports that the system had slowed to a crawl— logging many would-be voters out, while others complained of spending hours unsuccessfully trying to vote on Election Day. There were also concerns about security, while others complained that they were able to vote for the mayor but were kicked out of the system when they tried to vote for councillors. About 51 municipalities were impacted across Ontario; all of them were using Dominion Voting, including municipalities throughout Muskoka.

At the time, Dominon Voting issued a statement blaming the problem on a Toronto-based co-location Internet provider for placing a limit on traffic.

I personally am done with it. I don’t think that we should do it ever again and that’s what I’ll be arguing at council when the discussion comes up Huntsville Mayor Scott Aitchison regarding online voting

Town staff have remained tight-lipped about what many consider an election fiasco; questions posed by Doppler about whether the company used for online elections had been fully paid or whether a full debriefing had taken place, went unanswered. Huntsville CAO Denise Corry did issue the following statement via email: “Municipal Clerks are meeting to further discuss the matter. A joint Election Report (with the other five Muskoka municipalities) will be provided in the new year providing a full overview of the election and the events that occurred.”

Related story:
Unauthorized traffic limit by Toronto-based Internet co-locator blamed for yesterday’s voting glitch

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22 Comments

  1. I am assuming the choice to vote on line was to attract young voters who do everything on line, to save money and to give seasonal residents a chance to vote. It is human nature to leave everything to the last minute, so this should not have been a surprise. Also older folks are used to voting on Election Day, not election Month, or Week, so that should not have been a surprise either. I believe the voter turnout was quite low, so unless on-line voting saved a lot of money it did not accomplish what it was designed to do.

  2. There is an interesting interview on CBC radio show Spark about electronic voting in the US. I think we can draw some similarities to electronic voting here.

  3. I couldn’t agree more, Scott, and the major issue (among a myriad of others) is that there is no possibility of a recount. Imagine that you’re a candidate who lost by a handful of votes; occasionally harking back to election day and wondering “What if?”.

  4. On line or phone voting is an important step especially as we age and find it difficult to get out and Vote. We voted by phone and it worked perfectly. There were 2 votes the mayor sb grateful for. Our younger generation seems to only appreciate the electronic age and not the relationships as us older folks enjoy. We have to unfortunately adapt to the changing times but ensure better electronic systems are researched and tried before an election is called. Voting, no matter the method, should be encouraged as many people sacrificed their lives so we could save our democracy.

  5. John Rivière-Anderson on

    Hear, hear, Scott! Community poling station voting (rides provided if needed) is socially important and secure.

  6. Canada’s election process has always been a model for fledgling democracies around the world. Honest elections are vital and electronic voting is apparently quite insecure in a number of ways–as is long extended voting periods. We need one-day voting backed by paper ballots which are saved until everyone is satisfied that the results reflect the vote accurately. Government, at all levels, spends enormous amounts of money on often frivolous projects. Ensuring free and fair elections is a vital part of our system–we should pinch pennies somewhere other than the elections process. ONE-DAY VOTING WITH PAPER BALLOTS!

    • Kathleen Miller on

      Thanks Bill. I couldn’t agree more and felt as though I was really missing out on that community ritual by attending the polling station. It was isolating and took several frustrating tries for me to actually register my vote electronically with the system that didn’t seem to be working accurately . Having ballots available physically that one may require for re-counting purposes if required.
      I like seeing my fellow members in the community and feel a sense of pride on voting day attending an actual location.

  7. Wrong! Time to step up to the 21st century! TTT .. Things Take Time .. How about YOU offer both on-line and the ‘old’ fashion way and help/ show those that are interested in the 21st century tools, services features and functions? This could be very easily accomplished by having both services available! The old fashion way and a very simple ‘training electronic setup’ for those that want to see how easy it is! You can not become stuck in a ‘time warp’ and ignore technology of what is happening in the world! IE The same way the Hunstville/Bracebridge hospital fiasco was handled ..same old same old … nothing new and nothing accomplished accept ..same old ..same old! ..NOT the way to grow economy, add jobs, add growth etc etc .. time to get the head out of the sand and look around .. the world has changed .. either you get on the bus or be left at the curb .. stuck in the time wrap ..forever!

  8. I have worked on almost every election in the last 25 years. Very much missed it. It was also a great way to create jobs.

    Voting in LOB this year was a nightmare for us. I certainly posted about all the headaches we experienced, this election, on fb.

  9. Heather Wilkinson on

    I disagree with going back to the old fashioned way. This year was by far the easiest, least frustrating voting experience I’ve had in Huntsville. No parking issues, no waiting in a long line, no having 3 different people needed to find my name on the list. It was login, use the pin that was mailed out and vote. Perhaps an online vote ahead of time combined with in-person voting the day of the election might work better.

    • We have owned a cottage in the Huntsville area for forty years . We used to take a day off work to commute to Huntsville from Markham to vote in the municipal election . Voting from home was awesome . It was login, use the pin that was mailed out and vote. We voted online early. No difficulties.

  10. Be careful what you wish for. Sitting in Florida. Paper ballot are not foolproof. Finding boxes of ballots not counted at the back door. Polling both staying open way past closing time because everyone waits to the last minute. We voted on line In Huntsville and it was very easy. Yes I missed the visitation at the polling booth BUT that is not the purpose of voting. The first generation of voters will use electronic services. I thought there was a location set up to assist voters with electronic voting. – polling booth!!! Voting is a individual responsibility that should be taught in schools, then the method of exercising your right will be easy.

  11. It is time we realized that we are living in a time where things are changing faster & faster every day. We must be willing to adapt to those changes – they are the key to remaining competitive. As a 76 yr. old citizen of this town I now appreciate being able to use the online technology that allows me to do my banking, pay my bills, get my drivers licence renewed, order my groceries, and yes, cast my ballot online. It saves me an enormous amount of time and pain ( as I am mobility challenged). It frees me up to live my life doing the things I can still do.

    In the IT business, where I spent my 35 year career, we had a rule we lived by: Murphy’s Law – “If something can go wrong, it will …, and at the worst possible time” . A competent response to our election SNAFU would be to understand what went wrong, pick the right service provider next time and “volume- test” the proposed solution well in advance.

    Council should lead us into the future – not fall back on its memories of the good old days….

  12. Harolyn Hussain on

    I used the phone and had no problems. Don’t trust the computer or me using it as I am not that great with it. Other people in the apartment building I’m in also used the phone as was easier.

  13. Betsy Rothwell on

    I disagree with going back to paper. Technology is here in every aspect of our lives. It’s better to go to the system provider and ensure they fix the problems that occurred, via testing, for what we now know to be the requirements, and provide user training for those who need it. My experience was that it was very easy. We should not go backwards.

  14. I used the online voting quite simply and (I hope successfully) but I voted a week or so prior to the deadline.
    Probably online is the way of the future but I still have reservations about it, as with most online things.
    Given the swirling B.S. “tornado” currently swirling around anything relating to Trump one needs to be cautious about embracing the world via the internet.
    I don’t fully trust internet voting as nobody has demonstrated to me, the consumer, how it is guaranteed to be complete, fair and not able to be tampered with. Perhaps some open education here for the general population might help here.
    There is still something about going to a place, marking a ballot and all that goes with it that sort of defines an election for me, but I am over 60 and that might explain it right there.

    One thing I would suggest as a change is that people only get to vote in the location of their “Principal Residence”. This would prevent municipalities with a high percentage of part time tourists from being dominated by this group to the detriment of full time residents. It would reduce the number of votes to be counted too. Of course recreational property owners could still vote if they designated their cottage as the principal residence, but then they would not get a vote back in the city….. It seems somehow silly to give a municipal vote to anyone who owns property when, in many cases a lot of these people are only in the municipality for a month or two each year. Taken to the theoretical extreme, if some really rich person was to buy a small piece of real estate in every municipality in Canada, then they could get to vote in all of these places…. makes no sense.

  15. It baffles me that you allow someone who only lives in Huntsville a few months out of the year, to vote in your elections. When they also vote in their primary community. Albeit, wonderful people, but they don’t see what is happening the days they don’t live here. Hence, the name “Cottagers”. Yes, yes, they may be here for skiing, for a “Holiday “, whatever, but they don’t see the needs of Huntsville. Now, mind you if they own a home in the Toronto area as well as the Huntsville area, they make good money, and work for it too, I’ve no doubt. But, I’ve heard from many that they are also the reason Huntsville is not able to grow to it’s full potential. Also, the reason the housing prices as well as rentals are extreme. Figure out the people who live here 100% of the time. What is their wage?, do they own, or rent?. I’d venture to say for their wage, pickings are slim, damn slim for owning a home. You can’t purchase a decent home, for a family of 4 under $250k. It will certainly need a good amt. to repair, refurbish, a home in that price point. Add to that, the 20% down the financial institutions require. There are some great factories here, how many of the employees shop elsewhere then Huntsville?? Small business is fantastic, for the cottagers, their used to high prices. I totally understand that, they couldn’t possibly compete. They must be of a novelty of sorts or a sporting business. How many small businesses need to close during the winter season, say after the Holidays? Huntsville looks like a ghost town after 5pm. Even on a weekend! There is a dire need for both small business to cater to the “Cottagers”, and “big box stores & restaurants”, for the everyday shopper.
    Now, that I have your dander up, I’ll jump down from my soapbox.
    Something to think about??

  16. Jacquie Howell on

    Still counting paper ballots in Florida. BUT by machine. Oh what fun. Shocked at the negative comments about seasonal residents. Just give a thought to your taxes, businesses without that tax base. Check with your town or municipality

  17. Peggy Peterson on

    The truth of this election process is a disturbing story filled with serious issues . The lack of access process and privacy for voters was outrageous and the people were in fact very disturbed by this new method of voting . The Mayor making claims that he was reluctant to this is lost since this town made it clear after the 2010 election that we wanted paper ballots with an online option . We have no way of knowing how accurate the voting was since there is not paper to track and nothing to review . Everything that could go wrong did go wrong and we need a community survey of who surrendered to the foul ups in the process and the people who were not able to vote at all. When we look back to the meeting that the Town Mayor and Council passed this method we see it was supposed to increase participation and save us money . The truth is that 11 % fewer people voted and we will have the costs as soon as the Town responds to my FOI on expenses filed on October 23 2018. How many people had issues with privacy with staff members watching them vote ? It was a systemic problem created by this system and there was no up side if our democracy was compromised. If this random company in Toronto was able to interfere with the flow of votes how do we know they did not tamper with the results ? All questions that need answers but Scott A is no hero making a claim he is done with this method .

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