Voting Methods Review

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An image of an x inside of a square - indicating a mark made by a voter.

We’re doing a review of voting methods, which are the ways that you cast your ballot in municipal elections. As part of this review, we’ll explore voting methods that can be done remotely in addition to traditionally casting a paper ballot at a voting location. This review will impact voting methods offered for the 2022 municipal and school board election.

We want to know how you feel about voting by:

  • Mail
  • Telephone
  • Internet




If you can, please read the short background documents on each of these topics:

Citizens are encouraged to participate in multiple ways, such as:

  • Interact online through this survey and the other website features such as Q&A, ideas, video, and shared documents.
  • A live-streamed open house and panel discussion scheduled for Wednesday November 18, 2020 - Watch the recorded meeting on YouTube
  • The panel discussion will be recorded and posted online for future viewing.
  • Citizens are also welcome to email, call or write a letter to the City Clerk's Office.

We’re doing a review of voting methods, which are the ways that you cast your ballot in municipal elections. As part of this review, we’ll explore voting methods that can be done remotely in addition to traditionally casting a paper ballot at a voting location. This review will impact voting methods offered for the 2022 municipal and school board election.

We want to know how you feel about voting by:

  • Mail
  • Telephone
  • Internet




If you can, please read the short background documents on each of these topics:

Citizens are encouraged to participate in multiple ways, such as:

  • Interact online through this survey and the other website features such as Q&A, ideas, video, and shared documents.
  • A live-streamed open house and panel discussion scheduled for Wednesday November 18, 2020 - Watch the recorded meeting on YouTube
  • The panel discussion will be recorded and posted online for future viewing.
  • Citizens are also welcome to email, call or write a letter to the City Clerk's Office.

Ask us anything you would like to know about voting methods. We will do our best to provide an answer to you in 2-4 business days. 

Ask us about voting methods

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    What is the average per person cost of the current paper ballot system, and how that compares with the estimates of other methods?

    T Moull asked 9 days ago

    We base our election budget on the number of eligible voters that can cast a ballot in an election. In 2018 this was 93,650 eligible voters. 

    The final cost of the 2018 municipal election, which offered in-person voting locations with paper ballots, was $476,000. Based on this, the cost to support in-person voting with paper ballots for all eligible voters was $5.08 per voter. 

    However, in 2018 the final voter turnout was 33,732 voters or 36% of eligible voters. Based on this, the cost to support in-person voting with paper ballots for the voters who cast a ballot was $14.11.

    Since we don’t know how many people may use the remote voting options at this point, we have provided costs on a base number of 10,000 users as a standard for comparison.

    Based on anticipated costs and 10,000 voters using each remote method:

    • A vote by mail method would cost $7.53 to support each voter
    • A vote by phone method would cost $2.45 to support each voter
    • An internet voting method would cost $2.45 to support each voter


    Some of the costs provided are flat rate costs, vendor services for example, and others are a per voter cost. If the number of voters who use a remote voting method increase or decrease the cost would vary.

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    How would that verification take place – I am interested in technically how you would do this and how much it would cost.

    5 days ago

    Section 60 (1) of the MEA requires that a recount be done in the same manner as the original count. In this case, phone or internet votes would be re-counted electronically. The phone voting system uses the same electronic platform as the internet voting system. In both cases, results would be re-run by the system using the same algorithms to calculate results the same way they were counted on Election night. The City Clerk would use the secure results reporting system to re-tabulate and receive the results of the recount. No additional costs are anticipated in this case.

    A recount could only be conducted in a different manner if, as outlined in Section 60 (3) of the MEA, it is ordered by a judge. To date there are no known Ontario cases where a judge has ordered a recount of electronically cast ballots, such as phone or internet, in a different manner. Without more information on how electronic ballots could be counted in a different manner or what this would require, a cost could not be provided. We would have to work with our vendor to determine costs and processes based on what the court order requires.

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    In the event of a close race, where candidates ask for a recount – how much would it cost to verify phone in and internet votes.

    5 days ago

    No additional costs are anticipated for a recount of phone or internet votes.

    According to the Municipal Elections Act sections 56 (1), 57 (1) and 58 (1), a recount would only take place in the event of a tied vote, if Council passes a resolution directing staff to carry out a recount, if the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing makes an order requiring a recount or if a court orders one.

    Recount costs, in general and across all voting methods, depend on several things – how the recount is conducted, staff time needed to conduct it and whether vendor support onsite is needed.

    A recount for any voting method, including verifying phone and internet votes, would be done by City staff using the same equipment used on election night unless otherwise directed by a court order. 

    All equipment is rented for the full time period required to conduct the election until the period that a recount can be called closes. There would be no additional equipment costs.

    A recount to verify phone or internet votes would be electronic. Unless a court ordered a recount by a different process, an electronic recount is generally relatively quick to conduct. In 2014, the ward 3 recount was conducted. The recount of paper ballots took almost a full day to complete while the recount of internet votes was relatively quick for the internet voting system to re-run results. In this case, there was no staff over-time costs to conduct the recount as it was done during business hours at City Hall. Since no vendor was required on-site during the recount, there were no vendor costs for the recount.

    Without knowing more information about a, Ministerial ordered or court ordered process to conduct a recount in a different way, a cost estimate could not be provided for that situation.

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    If I decide to vote either by phone or online – how will you ensure that my personal data (the data I will need to put in to prove who I am) will be kept confidential?

    5 days ago

    The City has very clear privacy, data use and data ownership terms as part of the request for proposal (RFP) process and in any agreement with external vendors, including for election services. 

    These requirements hold vendors to the City’s privacy standards under the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (MFIPPA). The terms also establish that the City is the owner of any election related data, including personal information of voters, and outlines requirements to only share or use that personal data for the purposes of conducting the election. It is not to be retained once the time period for a recount has closed. 

    Vendors are also required to disclose to the City if they have sub-contracted any part of their service to another vendor or service provider and we would ensure they had signed agreements outlining privacy, confidentiality and data ownership expectations with any of them as well.

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    Do you have any information available on the participation rate change when another voting option is added?

    5 days ago

    Voter turnout is a complex topic that can vary based on several factors. Voting methods offered, local issues, candidate platforms and who is running for office all impact voter turnout. 

    It is hard to say definitively that a change in participation is linked directly to voting options available. In 2014, when a remote internet voting method was offered, the City saw almost a 10% increase in voter turnout. However, there were many things that could have influenced this.

    Dr. Nicole Goodman, who studies local voting trends at Brock University, has been contacted to see if she is aware of research into voter participation and voting methods that the City could share.

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    Question asked during our Open House: Would it be better to have internet voting for only advance polls so that you don’t have that 2018 issue on election night?

    5 days ago

    The City Clerk’s Office would consider the potential of implementing any of the remote voting methods during advanced voting and on Election Day. 

    The potential to avoid technical difficulties on Election night will certainly be considered in the final recommendation to Council. In addition, past election events at the national and sub-national level across the country are monitored and evaluated to ensure that best practices are put in place in Guelph’s election in order to mitigate exposure to risk and/or technical difficulties.

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    Question asked during our Open House: Should one family member be able to cast a ballot on behalf of other (or all) eligible voters in their household? Assuming your answer is no, how would you propose that be prevented when remote internet voting is allowed?

    5 days ago

    No, short of formally appointing someone to vote by proxy on your behalf, it is an offence under the Municipal Elections Act to vote more than once and to vote on someone else’s behalf.

    There would be processes in place to communicate the importance of marking your own ballot and to separate mail for different individuals in a household. For example, in 2014 when the City offered remote internet voting, voter cards containing a voter ID were put in individual secure envelopes so that they were not visible. Under the Canada Post Corporation Act, it is an offense to knowingly open or withhold someone else’s mail.

    Should any voter become aware of someone voting on their behalf, there is a responsibility to notify the City Clerk’s Office so that it can be properly investigated. Any verified case of an offense under the Municipal Elections Act would be pursued with the Courts with a potential fine of up to $25,000 and up to a six-month term of imprisonment.

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    Question raised during our Open House: Does the city’s cost estimate for internet voting include an amount set aside to defend against litigation from a candidate who challenges the validity of the result in court of law?

    5 days ago

    A cost estimate to respond to litigation has not been provided for any voting method as this cost could relate to in-person voting or any of the remote method options. 

    The City Clerk’s Office maintains an election reserve, part of this fund the operational costs of running the municipal election every four years. However, a portion is always left unspent to cover potential litigation, recount, compliance audit or by-election costs if needed.

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    Is there a link to recording of the Panel Discussion that took place on Wednesday, November 18th?

    Susan Watson asked 8 days ago
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    We have received the following question on social media: Watching the US Presidential election and their experiences with vote by mail, would this option extend vote counting after Election Day in Guelph?

    13 days ago

    A vote by mail option would be offered differently than it is in the US in a couple of ways that would mean ballots are all counted and unofficial results could be offered by end of day on Election Day in Guelph.

    Mail in ballots in the US election were all counted by hand. With high voter turnout and many mail-in ballots received, manual counting has taken a long time to complete. For the Guelph municipal election, we would use vote tabulators to count ballots received by mail the same as we do at our voting locations. These machines are programmed to count about 30 – 40 ballots per minute and would make ballot counting and providing results much more consistent and efficient.

    Part of the delays with results in the US election are also based on different state processes and deadlines to receive mail in ballots. In Guelph, we would have one standard process to receive and count mailed ballots. We would have a hard deadline on when mail in ballots need to be received by and would only count ballots received before that cut off. This deadline would be calculated in advance and communicated to anyone registering to vote by mail. This would allow a clear cut off, the same as when all in-person voting locations close at the same time on Election Night, so that results could be tabulated. That cut off isn’t known yet and would depend on when we could get ballots printed. It would likely be the Friday before Election Day or a time on Election Day.

    We usually announce unofficial results on Election night as we are working to balance ballots counts with the number of people who voted and other integrity checks in addition to the ballot count. Provided there are no integrity, security or process concerns flagged, we re-run the results with fresh eyes the next day and certify official results. This two-step process allows extra time for a thorough review to ensure nothing is in question before certifying official results.