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Council backs mail-in ballots for next election

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With municipal elections coming up a year from November, residents once again can go to the mailbox instead of a polling booth to cast their ballots after town council decided Monday night to try mail-in voting for a second time.

Clerk Glenn Treftlin said yesterday the turnout for the last election in November, 2000 was “pretty good,” but expects an even better one next fall for several reasons.

“Out of the some 6,700 potential voters, we saw 3,333 votes come back. That’s a 49.52 return rate,” said Treftlin.

“But remember, we didn’t enter into the vote by mail deal with Canada Post until July, so there was little time to promote it. This time will be different,” he added.

Treftlin told council Monday that it had to make the decision whether or not to do mail-in voting as soon as possible.

“It facilitates preparations for the next election to know in the early stages what method is to be used,” he said.

“There are staffing considerations and decisions to be made relative to voting subdivisions, public education advertisements, etc. that are tailored to the method of voting to be used.

“The process for the 2003 election has to be commenced with notice advertisements as early as December of this year,” Treftlin added.

Treftlin noted the greatest advantage to mail-in voting isn’t so much financial as it is practical.

“It gives you more opportunity to vote,” he remarked. “Normally, you get three days to vote—the two advance polls and voting day.

“With this, you have from Oct. 23 to Nov. 13. You could be in Florida and send your vote in.”

He noted a greater voter turnout also could result if the ballots also included the candidates running for the Rainy River District School Board and specific questions to the public—neither of which were on last election’s ballots but were on the standard ones the election before.

A survey conducted with the 2000 mail-in vote saw only 12 responses, but seven of them were in favour of the system while the others ranged from ambivalence to dislike.

But perhaps a more positive sign was of the all votes turned in last election, 2,333 were mailed in while 1,048 were dropped off at the Civic Centre, Rainycrest, and La Verendrye hospital. A total of 48 ballots were spoiled.

Treftlin said dropping off votes at the Civic Centre, Rainycrest, and the hospital will remain an option.

While Coun. Struchan Gilson noted he was a “traditionalist” and “didn’t care for the vote by mail thing,” council still agreed to vote in favour of it at Monday night’s regular meeting.

In other business, council:

•denied the request from the Fort Frances Chamber of Commerce to waive the rental fee for the Memorial Sports Centre for a wrestling event back in April, as it is contrary to the policy set by council;

•approved and will forward a community improvement plan and economic development financial incentive plan to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing as per the recommendation of the Economic Development advisory committee;

•turned down an offer from George Armstrong Co. Ltd. to reconstruct Front Street from Victoria Avenue to the Sorting Gap Marina on the grounds the project would be too costly at this time;

•authorized town crews to assist local volunteers by picking up bagged waste at central locations for disposal at the landfill site following a scheduled cleanup of the Rainy River Watershed’s “Adopt-A-River” program this fall;

•agreed to give a letter of support to the Township of Emo towards the proposed biomass waste disposal and recovery pilot project;

•approved a report recommending $75,000 be earmarked in the 2003 budget for signage at the Fort Frances Airport;

•authorized the 2002 sidewalk budget of $269,900 be carried over into the 2003 budget and the project be re-tendered for next spring;

•authorized a letter denying American Water Services Canada Corp.’s request to renew the water pollution control plant contract and instead will move forward with the tendering process through a consultant;

•supported the creation of the new Ministry of Natural Resources nuisance bear committee and the appointment of its members;

•approved the purchase of four tickets for the Riverside Foundation for Health Care’s Christmas gala, totalling $200, as a council public relations expense; and

•authorized the purchase of a computer program for $1,000 as an unbudgeted capital item for municipal planner Faye Flatt (this cost can be covered by the present budget for the Planning and Development division).

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