“This is a matter of access, all individuals have the right to exercise their right to vote, and we need to make the process easier for those that are at a disadvantage.”
A Submission to Niagara At Large from Steven Soos, a Welland/Niagara, Ontario resident and former federal election and Welland city council candidate
Posted November 16th, 2-16 on Niagara At Large
(Niagara At Large is posting Steven Soos’ submission as one way of encouraging some thought and discussion on an idea which, perhaps, should be considered for municipal elections in every municipality across our Niagara region.)
Niagara, Ontario – Former Niagara Falls federal dlection candidate and Welland Resident Steven Soos is calling on Welland City councillors to give their constituents the option to cast their ballots online in the next Civic Election.
Soos recently started an online petition, available at change.org in support of online voting, and personally contacted all 12 councillors to plead the case for online voting.
“I’ve had great conversations about the need for online voting with some of the councillors, and I think there is definitely support on this issue,” Soos said.
Welland City Councillor for Ward 6, Jim Larouche said that online voting is something that needs to be investigated.
Welland Resident Lane Hopkins, 19 who recently signed Soos’ petition said that he signed the petition because it would make things easier when traveling out of town for school. He also said that it seems like the right choice because there are not many places for someone who does not drive to vote. Hopkins also believes online voting would increase voter participation substantially.
Soos said Welland City Council should decide on the issue sooner, rather than later.
“Procedurally, we would have to render a decision on the matter by May of 2017, and have the infrastructure in place by December of 2017, if we are to meet provincial guidelines.”
“This is a matter of access, all individuals have the right to exercise their right to vote, and we need to make the process easier for those that are at a disadvantage, such as people with disabilities, students, single moms, folks with full-time work schedules, rural voters, and seniors with limited mobility, just to name a few, who may not be able to get to the polling stations on election day, or even advanced voting day.”
When asked about how secure online voting would be Soos had the following to say;
“Currently 44 of Ontario’s municipalities have already implemented online voting, several colleges and universities including Trent and Niagara have the option to cast their ballot for their student representatives online. I think that we have sufficient security, and technological infrastructure for online voting.”
“After all, people bank online, put down payments on condos online, book air flights etc.” For security purposes, Soos proposes that voters be provided a link via email to cast their ballot, which would expire after they vote. They should also be provided a pin to ensure fraud does not occur.”
Soos also said that online voting has the potential to reduce cost in the long run, with having the added benefit of raising poor voter participation.
“Participation always ends up being lower in Civic Elections, we need to change that. Councillors are our grassroots politicians; they have a very important place in our democracy.”
“We also have to look at online voting as an investment. Eventually, it will end up saving the city money, because there will be less need for polling stations. I am not purposing that we phase out polling stations completely, since many people enjoy casting their ballot in person, but we need to make other options available, and online voting is certainty the most convenient.”
When asked about the process, Soos said that he has encouraged councillors to table a notice of motion asking the Clerk’s office to report back to Council regarding the specifics of online voting. After that point, council could strike up a taskforce made of City of Welland stakeholders that could provide insight on the issue of online voting.
“Public consultation could then be launched via ward meetings, surveys, and town halls. Once this is completed, council can render a decision on the implementation of online voting.”
Soos encourages the public to share their thoughts about online voting with their Councillors, and Mayor Frank Campion.
Steven Soos is a Former Federal Election Candidate for the Niagara Falls Riding. He holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in International Development Studies from Trent University. Soos is also a former Welland City councillor candidate.
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