Dana Schmidt, Penticton’s corporate officer, works with one of the city’s standalone vote tabulators during a previous election. Western News file photo

Dana Schmidt, Penticton’s corporate officer, works with one of the city’s standalone vote tabulators during a previous election. Western News file photo

Penticton council votes down manual vote counts

A small group had concerns about tampering with tabulation machines, but staff said they can't be hacked

  • Jun. 7, 2018 12:00 a.m.

The City of Penticton will be sticking with machine-counted ballots this fall, despite a small local push for hand-counted ballots for the upcoming municipal election.

Council voted unanimously for a bylaw that set out the number of polling locations (two) and the number of advance voting days (three). Those are both increased from the 2014 election, which saw lengthy lineups over the course of two advance voting days at one polling location.

The bylaw also dealt with the issue of how the ballots are counted, with staff noting three people had approached the city to ask that council consider a manual count to confirm the machine count, with another individual suggesting the city do away with the tabulation machines altogether.

In a report to council, staff said the cost of a manual count would likely run at the high end of the $4,500 to $6,500 range, and the suggestion got immediate pushback from Elections B.C.

“In speaking to Elections B.C., they strongly recommended against a post-election manual count unless it is directed by judicial review,” staff wrote in the council report.

A judicial review, according to the Local Government Act, is on the basis that votes were not correctly accepted or ballots not correctly rejected or total valid votes for a candidate were not correctly recorded.

“(Elections B.C.) also advised that the vote tabulating machines that the City of Penticton uses have been shown to be accurate,” the staff report reads.

Corporate services manager Laurie Darcus said the machines only counted marks on ballots and did not hook up to the internet, so they could not be hacked remotely.

“It’s almost like an adding machine — an old, old adding machine. They’re not electronic in a way that there’s data moving back and forth,” Darcus said.

Mayor Andrew Jakubeit, in a verbal back-and-forth with resident Kevin Proteau, said he’s fine with doing manual recounts on a few random voting boxes, but not with all of the thousands of votes that come in.

“There’s probably more errors going through a manual count than you’ll ever get with an electronic count.”

Coun. Judy Sentes added the issue was taken to the Union of B.C. Municipalities twice, both times receiving unanimous favour for the tabulation machines.

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Dustin Godfrey | Reporter

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