A sneak peek at White Rock’s new automated vote-counting machines may not have garnered a deluge of interest last week, but they are anticipated to make Nov. 19 much easier on those charged with tabulating the results.
The 2008 election, with nearly two dozen candidates, was “a complicated manual vote,” Tracey Arthur, the city’s chief election officer, recalled Thursday, noting numbers were being crunched until about 2 a.m. in that election.
That year, White Rock was one of the last to announce its results, she added.
Arthur is hopeful the six leased machines will shave off at least a couple of hours, if not more.
Rented from the City of Toronto at a cost of about $11,000 – following council approval in July – the machines use an optical scan to track which candidates are receiving votes and how many. The results are stored on a memory card, so should a power outage hit mid-count, the tabulation to that point will not be lost.
As well, the system reduces the incidence of spoiled ballots, as it immediately flags any that have been incorrectly marked. The forms require voters to simply draw a line that connects two parts of the arrows pointing to their candidates of choice.
Unfortunately, there’s nothing in the new system that ensures more citizens will actually get out and vote. While voter turnout in White Rock is typically amongst the highest in B.C. – in 2008, 36.86 per cent of the city’s 14,980 eligible voters cast ballots – there is much room for improvement, Arthur said.
“Thirty-six per cent is not great,” she said.
Arthur noted White Rock is among the last communities in the Lower Mainland to make the move to automated vote counting. A report suggesting 10 of the machines be leased for use in the 2008 election went to the city’s finance and audit committee in July 2007, but was defeated.
There are communities that have been using the machines for at least 10 years, Arthur said.
She noted this year’s expense was reduced by joining with eight other communities in leasing the machines. Other cities participating in the joint venture include North Vancouver, Port Moody, Squamish, Coquitlam and West Vancouver.
Another new addition to election day will be the projection of results onto a screen at White Rock City Hall as they come in, Arthur said.