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Cape Breton Regional Municipality delays electronic voting decision

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SYDNEY, N.S. —

The Cape Breton Regional Municipality will decide next month whether the next mayor and council are chosen exclusively by electronic voting.

During the monthly meeting Tuesday, municipal clerk and returning officer Deborah Campbell Ryan recommended CBRM council pass a motion to make telephone and internet voting the only way people can vote in the Oct. 17 election.

Council instead unanimously approved a motion by Dist. 1 Coun. Clarence Prince to postpone the decision until the June 9 or June 26 meeting.

Clarence Prince
Clarence Prince

Prince said he wants more time to make sure seniors and rural residents can exercise their right to vote and to work out how candidates would campaign.

“All we’re doing is just putting a slight pause on that to rethink it, see what life will be like, to see what COVID (protocols) will be like in the fall, if we can use a crystal ball and anticipate that, and hopefully make the right decision,” he explained Wednesday.

“The whole motion was to pause for a second instead of rushing into it.”

Council did authorize Mayor Cecil Clarke and Campbell to sign an agreement with Intelivote Systems Inc. for electronic voting service for the election. The Dartmouth-based company has handled the electronic advance polls in recent CBRM and school board elections.

“They will be able to look at some costs and if indeed the decision is to proceed, a lot of the legwork will have been done on it,” said Prince.

If the CBRM does go with electronic-only voting as outlined in Campbell’s recommendation, polls would be open from Oct. 7 at 8 a.m. to Oct. 17 at 7 p.m.

Prince said while electronic voting has worked well in advance polls, the veteran politician described himself as “betwixt and between” on it.

“Maybe being a veteran councillor and always used to the paper ballot, I have different qualms about it, but it could be the way of the future, particularly in a pandemic like this,” said Prince, whose career in municipal politics began in 1981.

He said one of the biggest adjustments would be campaigning under current social-distancing guidelines.

“Having been there for 30-plus years and knowing the people, you’re knocking on doors and sometimes you’re having a cup of tea talking about incidents that have happened,” he said. “I think it deprives the people the opportunity to meet the candidate one on one, to test them out, to see what they really think and to express their viewpoints. Sometimes it robs the candidate from knocking on doors to see what’s going on, or renewing old acquaintances.”

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