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City council looking at a new way to vote

More information needed to make final decision

Editor’s note: The previous edition of this story incorrectly stated that the reason council is looking into alternate methods of voting is due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While a motivating factor for many committee members, the correct reason is because council is required to pass a by-law determining the method of voting by May 1, 2021. The article also stated there were five options provided by staff, when there was actually four.

By Chris Jones/The Oshawa Express

City council is looking into alternative methods for voting before the next municipal election in 2022.

During the recent corporate services committee meeting, councillors were at a stalemate when deciding on how to approach voting in the next election.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, committee members were looking at ways to allow for social distancing with alternate methods of voting, such as online, in order to keep residents safe and healthy.

The committee was presented with four options, such as Internet and telephone voting only, a hybrid model of in-person and online voting, and more.

Council is required to pass a by-law determining the method of voting by May 1, 2021.

However, due to the speed at which they were trying to decide, the committee voted to defer the item to the next corporate services meeting in October with comments from staff.

The decision was made after Ward 5 City and Regional Councillor Brian Nicholson withdrew his motion to receive for information, as well as other motions which split council down the middle.

The veteran councillor says there isn’t enough information, and staff should consult the public, as well as former candidates to get their feedback regarding the current system.

“Without public input, I think we’d be doing a disservice to the process,” he says.

His ward counterpart John Gray agreed, also noting many seniors would be at a disadvantage as they are not online.

He points out seniors are the largest voting sector, and while he understands the need for a higher voter turnout, the use of some current technology in place of older methods would leave some seniors feeling isolated.

“Not everybody in the population is tech savvy, nor do they have the great desire [to be],” he says.

However, some councillors focused more on the current world, where social distancing is considered to be paramount, even during an election.

“This is an opportunity to be prepared for… future circumstances when there are challenges to people getting out into public places,” says Ward 4 City Councillor Derek Giberson.

Some councillors stated their interest in certain options, such as Ward 2 City Councillor Jane Hurst, who wishes to see a hybrid of both in-person and online voting.

However, after some attempts at a resolution were shot down by committee members, the consensus became clear.

“I do think that this has moved quite quickly, and this is something that requires public feedback,” says Giberson, adding it shouldn’t be decided by the end of this month.

Deliberation and public feedback became the ultimate goal after more debate on how to move forward. The committee voted to defer the vote to the next corporate services meeting to get more information on the topic.