By Mark Squibb | Mar. 18, 2021
While the province staggers through an awkward, extended election beset by controversary at every turn, communities across the province are turning their attention to the quickly approaching September municipal election.
The Town of Paradise voted Tuesday, March 16, to allow vote-by-mail in the upcoming election, in addition to traditional, in-person voting.
Deputy Mayor Elizabeth Laurie explained that back during the January 19 meeting, council passed a motion to authorize voters to vote by mail this time around, pending approval by the Department of Environment, Climate Change, and Municipalities.
The Town received that approval on March 10.
“So, the next step is to develop a set of regulations, with respect to the mail-in system of voting, that are necessary to carry out an election,” said Laurie. “To begin, council will need to decide if the vote-by mail will be completed through a registration program or a mass mail-out process. So, in speaking to some of our neighboring municipalities, they have decided to go with the registration process. Using the registration process will be more cost effective, because we’re going to reduce the cost of wasted and unused ballot kits. We’re also going to reduce the risk of potential for fraud, which is very important.”
She went one to say that once council voted on the process, staff would have to secure and negotiate a contract with DataFix, owner of VoterView, a widely used elector management system, which Laurie said the Town has used in the past to prepare and update the voters list.
“DataFix also provides support for vote-by-mail, including developing ballot kits, and their software has the functionality to allow voters to register, to apply for a mail kit, and track it’s status,” she said.
Laurie added the Town will also offer in-person voting, depending on any Covid-related restrictions at the time.
She said there is $55,000 budgeted to conduct the election, and the town will work with regional municipalities and Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador to develop a consistent set of regulations across the region.
Council voted unanimously to allow a vote-by-mail, requiring registration, in addition to in-person voting.
Councilor Patrick Martin said voting by mail was common in St. John’s long before the pandemic started.
“The City of St. John’s has been doing mail-in ballots for about 20 years, and they’re quite successful with it,” said Martin. “I think this is a great, progressive move on the town’s part.”
Later in the meeting, Lauire took a moment to shine the spotlight on the election once again.
“I just wanted to put it out there, for all of those residents who are interested in putting their name on the ballot, to feel free to reach out to me, or anybody else on council,” said Laurie, adding that some people have already been reaching out in that regard.
“It’s an amazing honor to serve your town, and I encourage everybody to seriously consider it, and if you want to reach out to myself, or anybody on council, this is the time to do it.”
Other members of council, including councilors Sterling Willis and Deborah Quilty, and Mayor Dan Bobbett, echoed similar sentiments.