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Technical snags won't be repeated: Intelivote

Ronald Zajac, The Recorder and Times

By Ronald Zajac, Recorder and Times

If you had trouble voting electronically around the supper hour Monday, some of the people you were voting for may have been partly to blame.

The "candidate module," a new feature in which candidates can go online and find out instantly who has voted, contributed to a heavy user load that slowed down electronic voting across Ontario, the president of Intelivote Systems Inc. told The Recorder and Times on Tuesday.

"We had no idea it would be as popular as it was," Dean Smith said in a telephone interview from the company's Dartmouth, N.S., office.

At one point, as many as 400 candidates across Ontario were online, likely in a last-minute effort to get out the vote, said Smith.

Brockville, which held an all-electronic election for the first time in its history, was one of 33 Ontario municipalities using Intelivote on election day.

Others, which used the company's services along with paper ballots, were the townships of Elizabethtown- Kitley, Augusta, Edwardsburgh-Cardinal, North Grenville and Leeds and the Thousand Islands.

In a press release issued Monday night after the close of voting, Smith said municipalities using Intelivote's system saw "record voting activity over the multi-day election, especially during the final few hours of the event on election day."

"During the heavy load, the Intelivote system experienced a hardware server error that resulted in the entire load on the system being switched to the redundant load-sharing server," the statement adds.

"A combination of the heavy voting activity and the administrative activity resulted in the system reducing the capacity to process voter activity over a 57-minute period."

Smith's statement apologizes for the inconvenience and assures that "the integrity of the vote activity was not compromised and (Intelivote) is confident in the official election results."

Smith told The Recorder and Times the trouble started around 6 p.m.

"We realized that one of our servers was in some distress," he said.

"The load for the election switched over to ... a single side of the system."

During the 57-minute delay, some voters got through, while others experienced slowdowns as they were kept off the system to allow people who were voting to complete the task, he said, comparing this to motorists waiting at a toll booth for other drivers to get over a bridge.

Intelivote also shut down some municipalities' administrative services, such as help desks, to free up space for voters.

The record voter turnout was one reason for the server distress, but another was the unforeseen popularity of the candidate module, as a large number of candidates were online to check who had voted and who hadn't, said Smith.

Intelivote ultimately managed to restore full capacity to its system. By then, many municipalities, Brockville included, had to extend the voting period to accommodate people who had not been able to vote.

In Brockville, the polls closed at 8:40 p.m., while North Grenville's electronic voting remained open until 9 p.m. and Elizabethtown- Kitley's was open until 8:30 p.m.

Voters also reported problems in Augusta and results were late in arriving in Leeds and the Thousand Islands.

Brockville clerk Sandra Seale said city officials asked candidates to stay off the site to allow more people to vote during the crunch time, and the candidates complied.

She is confident the 40-minute delay was enough, adding staff returned phone calls from residents who called in with complaints, to make sure they were able to vote.

"Those who didn't give up had a chance," she said.

Electronic delays were not the only problems holding up results on election night.

In Gananoque, which voted the old-fashioned way with paper ballots, results were not posted on the town's website until 2:30 a.m.

Town CAO Darren Dalgleish said staff underestimated the time it would take to complete the preliminary count, attributing the delay to a combination of high voter turnout, the large number of candidates and the fact the process was completely manual.

As for the electronic system, Smith said Monday's "perfect storm" has taught Intelivote a lesson: it's time to invest in some newer technology.

This is the first time the company has experienced this problem, said Smith, adding Intelivote will take steps to ensure it doesn't happen again.

As long as those fixes are done, said Seale, city officials will be favourable to using the electronic system again in 2014.

"I think overall, except for that little blip, it went extremely well," she said.

With files from Christine Endicott and Anne Craig.

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