Voters reporting technical glitches at Ottawa polls

A closer look at the numbers as incumbents rule Sarnia, Chatham and Windsor

Voters in at least one Ottawa riding have been reporting issues with the new machines being used to issue ballots and tabulate votes.

"I wasn't in the database apparently, even though I've lived in the area for six or seven years, and I've voted here before," said Tatiana Paganezzi, a resident of Ottawa–Vanier.

Pagnezzi said she was told computers were down, and that she would have to fill out a paper form to cast her ballot.

"It was quite quick though, there wasn't a lot of people," she said.

Ottawa–Vanier voter Michael Porter tweeted the machines at Colonel By Secondary School weren't able to tabulate votes, so officials were instead putting ballots into bags. 

New technology

Elections Ontario is using new technology this election in certain ridings — "e-Poll books" and electronic vote tabulators — to check the names of voters, and to record and to count votes.

An e-Poll book is an electronic version of paper voters' lists, while electronic vote tabulators electronically count each ballot and generate results after polls close.

Andrew Patrick, who lives in the riding of Kanata–Carleton, said he had issues with the tabulator at a polling station in Bridlewood. Everything went smoothly until the end when he went to have his ballot fed into the station's single tabulator.

"It meant that after you had cast your ballot, there was a long line in order to pass your ballot over to be scanned by the machine," he said, adding it added approximately 10 minutes to the voting process. "It was creating quite a backlog for people who were waiting to scan their ballots."

Modem malfunction

At Corpus Christi Elementary School in Ottawa, a modem wasn't working when polls opened, causing a short delay for some voters, according to David Allston, returning officer for Ottawa–Centre.

Poll officials are trained in what to do if there are technological problems, which means bringing in a spare laptop or reverting to the old paper system if there's a system-wide failure, which would affect how votes are tabulated at the end of the day, he said.

"If it was a total loss and we had no power all day, then we'd probably have to do a manual count at the end of the night, just like we used to."

In total there are 530 polling stations across Ottawa's eight ridings, according to Elections Ontario.

Other ridings in Ontario are also experiencing issues with the new tech.

Across the province 99.5 per cent of machines are working properly, Elections Ontario said in an email to CBC Ottawa.

"In the event of a technical issue, poll officials will revert to the traditional paper method of servicing electors," where officials will strike off the name person who has voted, the email said.

Tested machines

Cara Des Granges, spokesperson for Elections Ontario, said in an interview before the election that the office tested the technology in byelections.

"Elections Ontario has the utmost confidence in the accuracy of vote tabulators and has piloted them successfully in by-elections," she said in an email to CBC Toronto.

"E-Poll books make it easier and faster for an elector to get a ballot. Vote tabulators automate the counting process for election officials which provides faster and more accurate results."

Elections Ontario will retain paper ballots for manual recounts if required, she added. Other voters also reported problems at the polling station.