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Cornwall to look at costs of adding polls, introducing online voting

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The process of making it easier to vote in future municipal elections in Cornwall has gotten underway.

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Cornwall council passed a motion that directs administration to add the costs associated with offering a minimum of eight polls – two in each quadrant of the city – and the costs of offering online voting, to the 2023 budget deliberations for council’s consideration. While municipal elections are held every four years, the city sets aside money in every budget year to cover the costs.

In the motion, moved by Couns. Todd Bennett and Dean Hollingsworth, it was noted the recently-held 2022 municipal election had a lower voter turnout than had ever been experienced before in Cornwall. The number of polling stations was also low – just four – and there were no polling stations north of Seventh Street.

Just before the election was held, the small number of polls became a political issue, then candidate Justin Towndale, now the city’s mayor, suggesting there’s work to be done in setting up how Cornwall votes. Towndale was critical of the lack of polling stations, particularly in the northern areas of the city, and on election day shared his personal experience of seeing long lineups at the Benson Centre, before going to a Plan B site to cast a vote.

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There were over 2,300 fewer ballots cast this year than in 2018, even though the city’s population grew during the period; well under four of every 10 eligible voters cast their ballots in October.

The motion noted that while neighboring counties have adopted online voting, Cornwall has not embraced the technology that is available “to make it as easy as possible for our residents to cast their votes.”

It said many residents have complained about the inconvenience of only having a few voting stations and cited it as the reason they did not vote, because it was not convenient.

The city says that at a time when voter turnout is at an all-time low, it needs to come up with solutions by guaranteeing a minimum number of polls to be used in future elections and bring in the long overdue online option.

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