A dynamic tumble of unexpected hurdles, including thunderstorms and website issues, challenged polling officials in the recent provincial election—the debut platform for new technologies designed to expedite election results and mitigate queue lengths.
The trouble began to stir in the early hours as storms rolled in with their disruptive tempest, causing power outages in numerous polling venues, according to Elections Manitoba. In response, polling officials resorted to manual ballot boxes to ensure voting could continue unabated until power was re-established. Upon poll closure, these manually cast ballots had to be merged with those computed by the vote-counting machines.
These count machines, otherwise known as tabulators, were newly instated and their arsenal included secure-access laptops for the voter list, information card scanners for voters, and printers for on-demand ballot production. This digression from traditional write-in ballots for advanced voting was an ambitious leap towards the technological modernization of the electoral process.
Elections Manitoba reported that this ambitious endeavor spanned over 900 polling stations, each equipped with substantial technology and backup plans. However, in addition to implementing potentially game-changing tech, new reporting and reconciliation procedures also extended the vote count duration.
The agency’s tastes of victory soon turned to apples of discord with firewall issues plaguing their independent website. Elections Manitoba’s director of communications and public information, Mike Ambrose, opined on the matter, acknowledging the disruption but refrained from positing any causes until an investigative report could be completed.
Despite the smattering of trials over the day, Ambrose noted a silver lining in the technical advancements of the elections process. The electronic voter list, bar code scanners, and on-demand ballot printers all permitted a heightened degree of service and facilitated increased voter participation from Manitobans.
In defence of the slower-than-expected results delivery, Ambrose reassured that the election was both free and fair. Looking at the voter count statistics, Elections Manitoba reported that approximately 472,000 Manitobans participated in the casting, indicating a voter turnout of 54 percent, with advanced polls seeing an unprecedented surge in participation with 200,790 votes.