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Calgary to use electronic voting tabulators for Olympic plebiscite

Calgary will be using vote tabulators for the first time in the Nov.13 plebiscite , although the technology is already widely used by other cities and towns around the province.

The voting tabulators sit on top of the ballot box and electronically tally each vote that’s fed through it.

At the end of the night, plebiscite workers will close out the machines and get a slip of paper that provides the final tally, including spoiled ballots.

“The tabulators are used by most municipalities in Alberta,” said City of Calgary returning officer Laura Kennedy.

“It’s a way to ensure voters know their vote has been counted.”

During a demonstration, city staff showed how the machines will either register a vote, or alert the voter and a staff member monitoring the machine if the ballot has been incorrectly filled out.

A ballot that has both the yes and no circles filled in, or neither of them filled in, can still be counted. Those ballots will not count towards the yes or no sides, but will be counted as over-votes (both circles) or under-votes (no marking).

“If that’s how they wanted to vote, they can choose to have the tabulator read it that way and when we post the results on the Thursday by noon, we will show over-votes and under-votes,” said Kennedy.

The voting tabulators ave all been calibrated and are ready to be used. They are now under lock and key until plebiscite day.

City election staff will simply have to compile all the totals from each tabulating machine once the polls have closed at 8 p.m. Kennedy said conservatively they should have the unofficial results by 10 p.m. on Nov. 13.

Kennedy also outlined the many ways voters with disabilities can mark their ballot. Her staff showed off accessible ballot marking devices, which accept the ballot and then assist the voter with marking their selection.

Blind voters can have the machine read them prompts over headphones, while the visually impaired can have text enlarged, and there is even a puff-and-sip interface for quadriplegics who cannot use their hands.

Accessible ballot marking devices are only available at advance polls.

For a list of advance and plebiscite day voting locations, visit calgary.ca/vote2018.