HUNTSVILLE – It’s out with the new and in with the old when it comes to voting methods in Huntsville.
Huntsville council decided at its meeting on Monday, Feb. 25, to scrap the electronic voting method used for the 2010 municipal election and switch back to the traditional paper ballot.
Mayor Claude Doughty brought the issue forward as council was deciding whether it would approve the formation of an ad hoc committee to investigate which voting method would be best for the 2014 municipal election.
“There is a strident sector of the community that is pretty adamant about not doing Internet voting the next time out. I don’t hear very many strident comments from the opposite side,” said Doughty. “If there is a sense around this table that we don’t want to do that (Internet voting) for this next election, then we should have that discussion now and decide what we want to do.”
He noted that there have been several reports of companies and government organizations being hacked or having their digital information compromised.
Several residents raised alarms in 2010 when the town decided to move to an electronic voting method that included online and telephone voting. The verifiability, security and privacy of electronic voting was called into question and some residents were demanding the municipality reinstate paper ballots.
Coun. John Davis said some concerns with electronic systems became reality in Huntsville during the last election when an overburdened server prevented some voters from casting their electronic ballots. And Coun. Det Schumacher noted some voters had problems using the telephone voting method during the last election as well.
Other councillors supported paper ballots for their verifiability, but wanted to ensure that, if the town did revert to paper ballots at the next election, seasonal residents would have ample opportunity to vote without having to be in town on election day.
Coun. Fran Coleman, who supported electronic voting as an accessible voting method, said she considered online voting a better format for seasonal residents than mail-in ballots, which were often scattered around post office floors.
But things have changed, she said.
“I’m satisfied that our last election (that we did) electronically was done appropriately,” she said. “But things have changed this time and we’re seeing more happening. I, too, would support a paper ballot.”
Council decided not to form an ad hoc committee to review the voting method and instead directed staff to present a report at a future committee meeting about using a paper ballot voting method in the 2014 municipal election.