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Political science professor suggests tweaking of CBRM electronic ballot next election

Saturday is decision day for municipal elections in Cape Breton. STOCK IMAGE
Saturday is decision day for municipal elections in Cape Breton. STOCK IMAGE
SYDNEY, N.S. —

A Cape Breton University political science professor is suggesting the wording on the Cape Breton Regional Municipality electronic ballots should be tweaked next time around.

Tom Urbaniak said one small ambiguity he noticed was when voters are asked if they qualify to vote in the Conseil scolaire acadien provincial school board election, the options of "yes or no" are referred to as a "vote" as in "vote now, yes or no." Although it’s technically a response and not a vote, Urbaniak said you either qualify or you don’t, you’re not being asked whether your opinion is to prefer to qualify or not.

“I’m sure that everyone understands the intent and that virtually everyone responds as they should, but a ballot instruction has to use precise language to avoid the slightest possibility of misunderstanding,” he said. “Hopefully that can be tweaked for the next time.”

In a Cape Breton Post story Friday, some CBRM residents complained about various voting issues including not receiving or receiving more than one voter PIN letter.

Neil Rideout of New Waterford, which is part of District 11, voted in District 12 due to a voter PIN error.

Urbaniak said although the voting system seems to have been functioning generally well, this would be a serious incident because it can potentially affect the result in two districts and it certainly affects the fundamental right of a voter to participate in selecting a representative.

“In the event of a close race, the courts would likely be asked to intervene to try to determine the validity of all the votes, especially if it appears that the incident is not completely isolated or unique,” he said.

Urbaniak said with an electronic voting system, glitches will not be in the counting of ballots but rather in whether all of the votes were validly cast and whether any qualified elector was somehow blocked or pre-empted from voting in the correct district.

“The CBRM clerk’s office has to take any such reports with the utmost seriousness and have an incident response team on hand to work on any necessary corrections,” he said. “Hopefully no qualified voter will be disenfranchised in their own district and no result will be in doubt.”

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