Sarnia City Council. photo by Melanie Irwin

Council To Consider Electronic Voting

Do you think city councillors should vote on motions electronically or is the “old-fashioned” way of raising your hand just fine?

Council has directed staff to explore the idea further by looking at the best practices used in other cities and consider the options at its meeting in June.

Councillor Matt Mitro says the voting and recognition method hasn’t changed since Sarnia officially became a city in 1914.

“The chair at the time would have recognized speakers by their hands in the air, he or she would have determined the speaking order doing that and everything would have been hand recorded,” says Mitro. “Here we are, 104 years later, and it’s still the same.”

He says other municipalities have embraced technology.

“Every other municipality of our size, I’ll go out on a limb I haven’t done a poll, has an actual electronic methodology of providing the citizens who are now watching on TV and also watching on their computers a way of seeing what we are dealing with.”

Mayor Mike Bradley isn’t sold on the concept.

“You will add considerably to the length of time [a council meeting is],” says Bradley. “If you look at tonight’s agenda, 80% is routine and that’s why I always try to record the votes on critical issues or you can record the votes.”

Councillor Mike Kelch isn’t sure displaying the motion and vote results through broadcasts would add anything either.

“If somebody wants to follow the meeting and they really want to get a sense of the agenda, they’re still not going to get much of a sense of it from the motion, unless they’re able to look at the background,” he says.

Staff estimate the cost to implement electronic voting would be $16,500.

$7,500 would be spent to purchase nine iPads and the software licensing for 2018, $5,000 would be spent on electrical and room modifications to council chambers and $4,000 would be spent on Information Technology (IT) contract labour.

If approved, council could be voting electronically by this fall after two to three months of staff training.