Newfoundland: Our clocks may be half an hour ahead, but we’re 10 years behind with everything else. But not for long, at least in terms of voting in municipal elections. If St. John’s mayor Dennis O’Keefe gets his way, we should see online voting by the next municipal election in 2013. The future!
“It’s the way of the future for municipalities right across Canada” says O’Keefe. He says it is important for the city “to be on par with the most advanced technology that we have in terms of communications and also in terms of voting.”
If St. John’s is able to pull this together for the next election, it should put the city ahead of the curve, not just on par with using emerging technologies. This is an exciting possibility for anyone who likes to see our governments changing with our society. But O’Keefe stresses that it’s not a matter of flicking a switch. Changes which would allow online voting in municipal elections would be covered by provincial legislation. Fortunately, city staff already have the ball rolling.
With turnout in the last municipal election (2009) around 50 percent, it’s good to see the city striving to do better.
“I anticipate we’re going to see a tremendous upswing in voters” says O’Keefe. “It will certainly encourage more participation—more voting—by young people”.
This increased participation through technology will be particularly useful during the upcoming review of the city’s municipal plan, which, without substantial public input, won’t be worth the paper it’s written on. If talk of online voting is any indication, we can only hope the review will use a similar robotic internet arm to reach out to those who have previously remained silent.
“I think it will be the most important thing we’ll have done as a council,” says O’Keefe of his hopes for online voting.
This sort of proactive movement towards new technologies bodes well for the city of St. John’s, who hopes to continue to attract and retain young people who will want to live and work in a vibrant community.
When Dennis O’Keefe brought up the idea of online voting with Mount Pearl mayor Randy Simms on his VOCM show Open Line, Simms was cool to the idea, favouring the importance of casting an election day ballot. In the end, this difference in attitude—from a mayor who was acclaimed—might be the difference between a city which finds itself politically stagnant and one which has an engaged, youthful political movement afoot.