More than a third of eligible voters have made their choice in North Dundas; polls close 8 p.m. tonight

Intelivote's voting portal — in this case for the Township of North Dundas. It's seen on a computer screen with a keyboard in foreground and stylized 'X' added to the image. Zandbergen photo, Nation Valley News

Results expected around 8:30 p.m.

WINCHESTER — It’s Municipal Election Day, and as of 9 a.m. this morning, 33 percent of eligible North Dundas voters had exercised their franchise by telephone and Internet since Oct. 17 — very likely an outright majority of those who will actually vote by tonight’s 8 p.m. deadline.

That’s not unexpected: Online voting contractor Dean Smith told Nation Valley News last week that only 20 to 30 percent of participating online and telephone voters typically vote on Municipal Election Day itself. Most choose to vote during the advance poll period, which can be as long as 30 days in some Ontario municipalities that are using the services of Smith’s firm, Intelivote. (Local townships in the five eastern counties opted for a relatively short five-day pre-Election Day voting period.)

North Dundas Clerk and Elections Returning Officer Jo-Anne McCaslin says 2,172 voters had cast virtual ballots online, with another 656 choosing the telephone option, by 9 a.m. today (Oct. 22).

Internet and telephone voting are the only voting options in North Dundas and most other municipalities in the five counties. However, South Dundas and Stormont are among the fewer than 20 percent of municipalities that also offer a paper ballot option alongside Intelivote’s electronic methods, according to Smith.

While the polls close at 8 p.m., McCaslin says it will take some time for the results to be released during a gathering at North Dundas municipal headquarters this evening. That’s because the township operates a public computer “voting area” at headquarters to assist those unable to vote at home; if there’s a line-up inside the door at deadline, all of those people still get to vote, delaying the final count.

Smith says he expects most municipalities to release results around 8:30 p.m. on average, explaining a series of things must happen after the virtual polls close. Attempts to connect with the Intelivote online voting portal (except for those machines inside municipality’s “voting area”) will be automatically denied at 8 p.m. A township voting “auditor” with access to the system through special non-votable PINs then verifies that access has been shut off. Anyone already in the system before deadline will be allowed to finish voting. Meanwhile, the “voting area” terminals will continue to operate until the Clerk determines everyone in the lineup has voted. Only when these “kiosks” have been shut down and all online voting has ceased will the auditor — typically a third-party individual charged with this role — and Clerk enter two encrypted keys to initiate the vote count: Although done by computer, the tally is not instant. Smith explains the process takes about 10 minutes as machines on Intelivote’s end decrypt the figures.

Intelivote did not handle the municipal vote in the region during the last election, in 2014. The involved contractor at that time had a weakness in its system that delayed results until well after 9 p.m., resulting in a public apology from the operator.

If you haven’t received a voter card and are a resident of the township, don’t worry: Bring ID to your local municipal office, where you will be enumerated on the spot in order to vote. Non-residents also get to vote if they own property in the municipality.

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