Hand-counting of ballots may return

Spallumcheen council may look at hand-counting ballots for future votes.

It’s too late for the Nov. 15 election, but Spallumcheen council may look at hand-counting ballots for future votes.

Since 1999, the township has used an automatic vote counting machine for elections, much to the dismay of Guenter Rieger, the former mayor, who says such machines are easily hacked.

Coun. Ed Hanoski is questioning why the township can’t go back to hand-counting votes.

“I’ve been reading the bylaw and it says council is hereby authorized to conduct in general elections and other voting in Spallumcheen using the automated vote counting system,” said Hanoski.

“That’s authorized, but not a must.”

Hanoski asked, should a vote recount be necessary, “If the machine is wrong the first time, what makes it right the second time?”

“Hopefully the results are the same,” said Cindy Graves, the township’s deputy corporate officer who serves as electoral officer for the municipal vote.

“If they’re not the same, and it’s in question, you can ask the chief election officer to do a manual count.”

Graves said she tested the automated machine prior to the first advance poll Nov. 5.

There’s another advanced vote Wednesday, and the machine will be used on general voting day Saturday.

Graves explained there is a test deck that a person is instructed to put through the machine to make sure ballots are printed properly and to ensure accuracy of the votes.

“We use the machine for the advance polls and there is a specific reader card that goes into the machine and gets locked,” said Graves.

“The machine comes out in morning and gets placed into election mode. At the end of the advanced vote, the machine with the lock on it gets placed in the vault and stays there to the next advanced vote.

“It continually tabulates. The ballots are kept in separate boxes and then, on the general voting day, the machine comes out of the vault prior to the doors being opened and is turned on.”

A ticker tape is printed with the results on the tape at the end of the votes. If a recount is asked for or required, the tapes would get compared after the votes.

“If the numbers are the same, the machine will be accurate,” said Graves.

“If they’re different, a request can be made to hand count and that would be a fair request.”

At least 17 municipalities in B.C. use the automated machines.

“That’s what we’ll proceed with for the (current) advanced polls and the election,” said Corey Paiement, chief administrative officer.

“The election is upon us so we need to be proceeding with the bylaw that’s in place.”

The current council unanimously supported a motion to put the automated machine bylaw on a committee of the whole agenda to discuss after the election.