The line of potential voters extended outside the Penticton Trade and Convention Centre just one hour after the polls opened for the 2014 municipal election. Western News file photo

More scrutiny for municipal elections

A group of volunteers want to be independent scrutineers for the next Penticton election

A review of the budget for the 2018 municipal election turned into a debate over the city’s electronic vote counting machines at this week’s council meeting.

“This was brought up because there is a lack of trust in the machines and maybe the people running the machines,” said Coun. Helena Konanz, adding that she would like to look at some way to audit the vote.

The review of plans for the next election was triggered by a delegation to the July 4 council meeting, where Elvena Slump and Helen Trevors said the vote counting machines have created distrust in the process, wanting to supply scrutineers who could trigger a manual vote count, noting other concerns about the last municipal election.

Related: Penticton voters complain of long lines

According to B.C. Elections, scrutineers are appointed by the candidates to observe; they are not an independent group. In the case of the 2014 election, there were few scrutineers appointed by any of the candidates.

“Whether the candidate had a scrutineer, and that scrutineer chose to be there for one hour or 12 hours, that is the candidate’s choice, said Mayor Andrew Jakubeit. “I trusted the system, I did not exercise my right to have a scrutineer.”

While Couns. Campbell Watt and Konanz discussed having partial manual counts or machine recounts for verification, Coun. Tarik Sayeed pointed out that the technology in the vote counters goes back to the 1930s and has been used for many years, not just for counting votes, but many student examinations.

“It has been proven, it works,” said Sayeed. He suggested that the only thing council should look at is whether the machines, in use here since 2002, needed to be updated.

‘What we need to do is invest in tech, not invest in going back in time.”

Related: Resident says voting machines a threat to democracy

Coun. Judy Sentes said manual counts are cumbersome and shouldn’t be needed.

“I can’t imagine why we would be considering going back to a manual count,” said Sentes.“I don’t think it is superior to the system we have right now. In my opinion, I think there is more chance for error in a manual count.

“I have no desire to take staff or our community back into a manual count.”

Corporate officer Dana Schmidt said manual vote counts or recounts would be costly for the city. There is a security process in place and the machines would be difficult to tamper with.

“The units we use are secured by the chief electoral officer and do not connect to the internet,” she said.

In Dec. 2014, city council already voted to add a second polling station and a third advance polling day to address concerns raised during the 2014 election.

To cover that, the election budget has been increased to $100,000 from $75,000. Schmidt noted that it would cost another $25,000 to add a third polling station.

Related: Second polling station to be added in Penticton

Council voted 6-1, with Watt against, to accept Schmidt’s report and confirm the $100,000 budget for the 2018 municipal election.