St. Marys Journal Argus
From the time last Saturday’s Town of St. Marys advance poll opened at 10 a.m. at the Pyramid Centre, there were a steady steam of voters lining up to cast their ballots.
The Town is employing a new voting system this year. Ballots — although slightly altered in keeping with ballots across the province this time around — are typically filled out in the traditional manner, but then the voter is asked to place them in a “privacy sleeve” and walk them over to be place in an electronic tabulator.
The big advantage? On election night, Monday, Oct. 27, results are expected to be known within just a few minutes of the polls closing at 8 p.m. — a huge contrast, if all goes as planned, to the traditional late nights waiting around the End Zone section of the Pyramid Centre (or, previously, Town Hall) to learn the results.
Also at Saturday’s advance poll was one of the “accessibility machines” being introduced by the Town this election. On voting day, there will be three of them: one at the main Pyramid Centre polling station; and one at each of the town’s nursing homes.
The accessibility machines are meant to make it easier for voters who, for various reasons, find it difficult to vote using a traditional ballot. Options with the machine include “paddles” or “sip and puff” technology for use by people with dexterity challenges, and earphones or braille for people who can’t read the ballots.
Despite the good intentions of making voting easier, however, there were some frustrations about the new system from residents who voted on Saturday. One person said it was taking a long time to explain the changes to everyone. Another person wondered about the degree of privacy afforded by the “privacy sleeve,” due to the fact that a polling station worker was required to actually place the ballot into the electronic tabulator.
Town of St. Marys employee Jenna McCartney, who was working Saturday’s advance poll, said all difficulties should be ironed out by Monday’s vote. Polls at the Pyramid Centre open at 10 a.m. and close at 8 p.m.
At the final meeting of Town Council before next Monday's election, CAO Kevin McLlwain confirmed that the Pyramid Centre's End Zone will once again be open for people to learn of the results communally. New this year, he noted, is that the Town of St. Marys has joined in a province-wide system through which results from various municipalities are broadcast across Ontario. But when asked by Councillor Lynn Hainer if St. Marys results would be released first in the End Zone, he responded that they would.
"I'll believe it when I see it," commented Councillor Bill Osborne, referring to the prediction that results will be available within just a few minutes after the polls close.
McCartney noted the minor change in the actual ballot is that people are asked to fill in a rectangle next to the chosen names, rather than mark and ‘X’. But she added that the tabulator will still recognize an “X”, as long as even a portion of it is inside the rectangle.
The tabulator will also provide an immediate alert if a ballot has been filled out incorrectly. For example, if someone votes for seven councillors instead of just six, there will be an alert. But if they vote for some number fewer than six — which is permitted — no alert will show up on the machine.