April 1, 2004
FREDERICTON (CNB) -- Amendments to the Municipal Elections Act were introduced in the Legislature on March 31 by Justice Minister Bradley Green.
The legislation includes two different types of amendments. The major amendment gives the Municipal Electoral Officer authority to modify aspects of the electoral process, to allow the use of vote counting machines or other equipment or procedures in particular elections.
The immediate reason for this amendment is to allow the use of vote tabulating, or counting, machines in Saint John for the triennial municipal, district education council, and regional health authority elections being held in May. Saint John does not have a ward system, so all council members are elected at large, and municipal elections in the city normally attract a large number of candidates.
"Traditional ballots in Saint John create difficulties for both voters and poll workers. Voting can be a slow process, leading to line-ups and frustrations at the polls," Chief Electoral Officer Annise Hollies said. "Counting the votes with such ballots is a time-consuming job, with some polls not reporting until 5 or 6 a.m. the day after polling day, making it difficult to find people willing to work the polls in the city."
"Vote counting machines will take the counting burden off the shoulders of poll workers," Hollies said.
Current legislation does not allow the use of such machines in New Brunswick, but Elections New Brunswick has observed their use in other places and is confident that the machines are easy to use, reliable, accurate, and will vastly improve the process of voting, counting and reporting election results in Saint John.
"The use of vote counting machines in Saint John is something of a pilot project.," Hollies said. "Elections New Brunswick will review the results of their use there, and if everything goes as well as expected will consider the feasibility and desirability of using such systems in other parts of the province in future elections."
Other amendments to the act modify different aspects of the election process for voters, candidates, and poll workers. They include eliminating the deposit requirement for candidates, adding more flexibility for mobile polls, simplifying advance voting rules and procedures, repealing the restriction on prisoners' voting, and extending the deadline for returning special ballots (used by home-bound voters, students, travellers, inmates in correctional facilities, military personnel posted overseas, and any others who cannot go to the polls).
For more information on the amendments to the act, or any aspect of the municipal, district education council, and regional health authority elections being held on May 10, contact Elections New Brunswick at 1-800-308-2922 (in Fredericton, 453-2218), or visit their website at http://www.gnb.ca, keyword: Elections.
Notices of Elections for the May municipal, district education council and regional health authority elections will be published in newspapers throughout the province on April 2 in daily papers and the following week in local weeklies.
MEDIA CONTACT: Annise Hollies, Chief/ Municipal Electoral Officer, 506-453-2218.