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North Cowichan touts speed and accuracy from vote counting machines

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Ballot accuracy and faster election results are promised from North Cowichan’s first renting of ballot-counting machines for this fall’s civic vote.

Mayor Jon Lefebure stressed the rented gear, costing municipal taxpayers about $15,000, is not for electronic voting on Nov. 15.

“When you fill out your ballot, you put it into a machine and the machine counts it,” he said of ballot ‘circles’ voters fill in by pencil while picking candidate choices.

“The machine reads that. If it sees any errors, or if you voted for too many people, it can spit the ballot out and you have the option of taking it to an election official and getting a new ballot.”

If the ballot is completed properly, the gear automatically records the vote. Completed ballots go into a sealed box as a paper back-up.

“People (election agents) won’t have to count the ballots, the machine does that, and gives you a number at the end,” Lefebure said.

Six machines will be rented, one for each polling station.

Council has budgeted $48,200 to hold the election. That includes about $15,000 net for the counting gear, and approximately $32,000 net in other election costs, after 1/3 of North Cowichan’s total costs are recovered from handling Cowichan school board’s election.

“The primary benefit of counting machines is accuracy — last time (fall 2011), I won by 16 votes,” said Lefebure, who hasn’t yet said if he’s running.

“I started at (winning by) 22, and they reviewed the spoiled ballots. If that had been caught by a voting machine, you might get away from spoiled ballots altogether,” he said, noting human counting errors.

“If the machine says your ballot isn’t valid, and they get a chance to redo it properly, you’ll get more accurate results for the election — that’s the really important part.”

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