Essex County voters receiving more than one ballot (con't)
This is the first year all county municipalities and the island are using mail-in ballots while Windsor is using traditional polling stations with scanning machines.
Leamington clerk Brian Sweet, who has overseen nine elections – the last four using mail-in ballots – said the sending out of more than one ballot to the same individual “certainly can happen.”
He said “a person might have five different properties and some of them may say Robert Smith, some may be in the name of Robert L. Smith. There’s all kinds of variations.”
But, he said, his municipality has software that ferrets out duplicate names as much as possible before ballots get sent out.
“We have a program now that brings up similar names,” he said. “You go through and eliminate a lot of these names.
So when the (election) kits get mailed out there’s a lot less of that happening.”
“But,” he added. “It still happens.”
This is the first year Amherstburg is using mail-in ballots.
Town clerk Brenda Percy said there are “safeguards” to prevent someone from voting more than once.
She said if an additional ballot for the same person is entered an alert would “pop up” and “it would come up as a duplicate elector.”
Percy also said that in most cases citizens contact the town and inform staff they have received more than one ballot.
She said a bigger problem is names being left off the voters list.
The list is compiled by MPAC (Municipal Property Assessment Corporation) and if property owners are not on it they should contact the municipality.
Sweet said the most difficult part of elections is compiling the list.
“We’ve done a lot of work over the last number of years to clean the voters list up and they’re much better than they use to be – they’re 10 times, 100 times better than they used to be. But the voters list will always be in municipal elections the worst part of the election.”
There's another safeguard.
The individual ballot has a declaration, which has to be signed, saying the voter is a Canadian citizen, 18 years of age or older, eligible to vote, and has “not already voted for any office or questions on this ballot.”
Said Sweet: “It’s like they’re under oath, they’re signing a declaration that they’re the guy entitled to vote and they haven’t voted before.
”They’re only entitled to the one vote (and) that eliminates for the most part the problem.”
But Sweet wouldn’t rule out that someone could vote more than once.
“I can’t say it never happens but I would think it would be very close to never happening."
He said if a voter did this it’s breaking the law.
“I think most people wouldn’t sign a false declaration. I mean you’re running a risk of going to jail.”
Sweet has been in contact with many of his municipal counterparts across the province and this hasn’t come up as an issue.
“Nobody has identified this as a problem.”
Sweet said the mail-in system is ”much more efficient” and “secure” than the traditional way of counting ballots by hand.
He said previously poll clerks had the disadvantage of working from 10 am to 8 pm at the poll, and then starting to count ballots at the end of the night.
“And believe me you get errors, it’s not the fault of the people it’s just the way the system’s set up.”
He said even a recount using electronic equipment in Leamington last election was caused by human error.
Someone had inadvertently deleted on the computer one batch of ballots.
Both Leamington and Amherstburg are using electronic tabulators this election to count ballots.
“It’s a scanner,” Sweet said. “You take 50 ballots at a time and you run it through the scanner and it’s connected to a laptop, there’s a program there and it just counts the ballots.”
Municipalities have turned to mail-in ballots to increase voters’ participation rate, which has been notoriously low.
Sweet said the real issue isn’t additional ballots.
“Our bigger problem is getting people to vote once.”