Review calls for major changes after 2017 Calgary municipal election polling meltdown
After a chaotic 2017 municipal election in Calgary, the fix was underway Wednesday at city hall. The audit committee is looking at a review that calls for major changes.
The Oct. 16 elections saw long line-ups as voters at some polling stations had to wait up to six hours for additional ballots to be delivered.
Ballots were located at a central location in Calgary and had to be driven across the city during rush hour which resulted in the delays.
Another area of concern was the lack of workers at polling stations which contributed to the long wait times in communities like Auburn Bay.
Judging by the review going to the audit committee, there wasn’t much that went right.
Shane Keating, Councillor for Ward 12, still can’t believe how badly it went.
“I think if we look at a 2017 scenario on elections, it was pretty bad,” he said. “We are in the day and age when electronic things can be done. Better distribution is easier. It’s not the horse-and-buggy time.”
There are four areas of concern going to the committee: better ballot supply and distribution, better selection of polling stations, processing and staffing, and election day results and reporting.
Laura Kennedy, the chief returning officer, said there will be new systems like electronic tabulators as well as earlier poll times to assist in future elections.
“I know we can do it better,” she said. “I know we can do it smarter and we’re going to. The next election will show that.”
Watch below from October 2017: David Boushy reports on why the City of Calgary has apologized and why the returning officer said it might be time to seriously consider using electronic voting machines in the next municipal election.
Audit Committee Chair Evan Woolley said he’d like to see improvement beyond the four areas of concern.
“People are leading busier lives,” he said. “We can capture a whole bunch of different things that other cities are doing in order to reduce barriers and deliver really effective elections.”
He has no interest in “rolling heads” or disciplining those responsible.
“I think what we need to do is ensure that all of the breakdown in procedures that led to the challenges we have, that we have mitigating plans in place, that we have robust staffing, that our locations are accessible and that whole range of… things that we identified are problems, that we solved that problem.”
Councillor George Chahal said he doesn’t know if it’s necessary to re-invent the wheel.
“We’ve had successful elections before and I think we improve on our mistakes,” he said.
The audit said 57 per cent of voting stations did not have enough ballots for councillor as opposed to mayor.
LISTEN: Colin Craig joins Danielle Smith to look at some of the problems with the 2017 municipal election
“Why did we have less ballots than the mayor? I think I’m just as popular as the mayor,” Chahal said. “I think other councillors would say the same in their respective wards. So with a mayor’s race or a councillor’s race, you should have the same number of ballots, even for public school trustee.”
Kennedy is set to return to city council in late September to provide details on what she will work on to improve the system.
There will also be a report on what changes have been implemented in one year.
With files from Aurelio Perri
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