Some Ontario Returning Polls will be using 'Tabulating Machines' to count the ballots, this appears to be an experimental initiative and limited to a few polls in each area. During 'training' the Returning Officers (at least in this area) were unaware of this wrinkle and training officers were unable to answer most questions related to such machines. As one who generally supports the move to using technology to enhance the voting process I do not want to detract from any moves to improve our voting system.
HOWEVER I have been unaware of any per-election announcements regarding this, as as it seems those that will be overseeing said machines. Being in close contact with an individual who worked for Elections Canada during the last election I am aware of some problems during the federal election but initial observations seems to indicate that the Ontario Provincial election has far more problems in its voting process. It is not sufficient that the voting process must be free of bias, interference and possible miscounts it must be SEEN to be free of such impacts!
Whist the move to have far more days for 'advanced polling' is perhaps a good thing, previous polling clerks have said that the previously very limited days produced 'very limited response' and that they were ' not busy', we wonder how 'busy' the returning clerks are going to be over the week that advanced polls are open. We also wonder how how much thought has gone into the introduction of 'Tabulating Machines' into an area without prior notification, and how the voting public will view this update when they vote..... AND how the verification process would work in the event of a recount!
This post is not in any way intended to detract from the voting process in this province, I have at this point full confidence in the voting system, however I will be keeping a close eye on the results and process from the “Tabulating Machines' being used for the first time (in so far as I know) in the Ontario Elections.
Its not technology, its the process, and the public acceptance of the process ........
UPDATE:- These machine were first tested during advance polls in the Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock by-election. “The ballot marking device will allow electors with visual impairments or physical disabilities to mark their ballot independently. “
For you interest here is how the tabulating machines work. The voter is handed a ballot (larger cardboard sheet aprox 8 x 11) inside a folder, the voter opens the folder and then makes their selection in the usual manner and then closes the folder and hands it to the returning officer who then (without opening the folder) offers the ballot up to the machine which extracts the ballot from within the machine, an audible sound is heard as the ballot is accepted and dropped in the box below. So far as I know the ballot is counted in real time and the results forwarded to the local district elections office electronicaly at that time. It is unkown to this writer how those votes are stored either localy or at the district office, I do note however that the hard copy of the ballots are retained at the local polling station.
I understand that those with .disabilities' are able to produce a ballot using ' assistive voting technology' using this same machine. “Voters with limited or no vision will be able to mark and generate a ballot by following step-by-step audio commands. Voters with physical disabilities will be able to use “sip and puff” technology or paddles. “ It is unclear however if this option will be available at the selected advanced polls that are using the 'Tabulating Machines' or if they must travel to the district returning office.