Sandy Casselman
Local Journalism Initiative Report

EMBRUN – The township of Russell is preparing for the next municipal election and, with direction from local politicians, staff will be seeking Request for Proposal (RFP)s for both telephone and internet voting.

In a report to council during the April 6 regularly scheduled council meeting, clerk Joanne Camiré Laflamme recommended that she be directed to prepare a bylaw to confirm the use of internet voting as an alternative voting method for the 2022 municipal elections, and that she be directed to continue partnering with interested United Counties of Prescott-Russell (UCPR) municipalities in a joint RFP, which could lead to cost savings. Also in the report, director of finances-treasurer Richard Godin noted there is $39,440 currently in the 2022 municipal elections’ reserve.

Councillor Jamie Laurin asked for confirmation as to whether in-person (tabulator/paper) and phone voting would still be options. Camiré Laflamme said they were not part of this recommendation. Mayor Pierre Leroux reminded council that with internet voting, staff made a point of going directly to retirement homes to help residents with the voting process and, for those without a computer or internet at home, the library offers these services free of charge.

The report noted that for the 2018 election, 89 per cent of voters used the internet service, while 11 per cent used the telephone to vote. With only 11 per cent, down from 22 per cent in 2014, of residents using telephone voting in 2018, the clerk recommended eliminating that option for 2022 and focusing solely on internet voting. The report also included a long list of advantages when using internet voting, including enhanced accessibility to vote because residents can do it from home or while on vacation, if needed.

“I think by trying to make it easier for everyone to vote, I think we’re making it harder for others,” Laurin said, noting that 11 per cent is still 11 per cent, not zero. “Removing it is not a proper way to encourage residents to vote. I think there should be a one-day hand ballot.”

Laurin said the biggest complaint he has heard during the past two elections was from residents who did not vote because they wanted to physically go to a building, sign their name to a register, and mark an “X” on a ballot; with telephone and internet voting, this is not possible.

While he was unable to get any of his colleagues to support including tabulators to the mix, Coun. Mike Tarnowski did second Laurin’s motion to add telephone voting to the RFP. At first, Tarnowski said he was interested in learning more about the in-person tabulator voting, but after hearing from the clerk and CAO Jean Leduc, he decided against it.

Leduc said the more voting options that are added, the more complicated it becomes for everyone, staff and residents included. Camiré Laflamme pointed out that it makes the RFP complicated because it is difficult, if not impossible, to find companies that do more than one voting method, so then it becomes a matter of hiring separate companies for separate voting methods. In addition to complicating matters, this also adds to the overall cost of the election, she said.

In the end, council agreed to add telephone banking to the RFP. Camiré Laflamme will be looking for quotes from companies for each and, if possible, for both together. Once she has more information, she will go back to council for a final decision on what voting methods are to be made available in the 2022 municipal election.