St. Thomas move to ditch in-person voting in 2022 draws concern from local cybersecurity expert – London

Voters in St. Thomas, Ont., won’t be heading to the polls in 2022 as they have in years past to cast their ballot in a municipal election.

City officials say they’re doing away with in-person paper ballots in favour of online and telephone voting next year in a bid to make the experience more convenient for residents and to spark greater voter turnout.

St. Thomas offered online voting during the 2018 election, but only in advanced polls alongside telephone voting. For election day itself, voters had to cast a ballot in person.

“It worked really, really well. The time people were online in order to do it (was) under five minutes. Our election day, we used the paper ballot and we heard a lot of people about long line-ups and not convenient polling stations,” said St. Thomas Mayor Joe Preston of the 2018 election.

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“We’re going to make it so that you can vote from your La-Z-Boy or wherever you are in the world.”

Those without computer or telephone access will be directed to visit a Mobile Voter Help Centre where they cast a ballot and be assisted by municipal staff.

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In the 2018 race, of the 10,259 recorded electors, 5,736, or roughly 56 per cent, voted in person, while 4,205, roughly 41 per cent, voted online, election data shows. Only 318 people chose to vote by phone.

In all, voter turnout was 36.09 per cent, with 80 per cent of those casting ballots recorded as being over the age of 45.

“During the pandemic, people have really concentrated on being able to use services like online purchasing or online ordering from restaurants. It’s become a far bigger part of our life, and we think we can make it part of the election process pretty smoothly,” Preston said.

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