By MEL ROTHENBURGER
Director, Electoral Area P, TNRD
Thompson-Nicola Regional District directors rejected a proposal on Thursday (April 18, 2019) to investigate a new way to record how they vote on issues.
My motion to ask staff to look at the cost of electronic voting systems for board meetings was handily rejected.
I had filed a notice of motion with the proposal at the March 28 board meeting and it came up for debate yesterday. The intention of my motion was to provide clarity and efficiency in the recording of votes.
Under the current TNRD procedural bylaw, votes taken by the board are recorded only as carried or defeated. The votes of individual directors aren’t recorded in the minutes of meetings unless a director asks the meeting chair at the time that his or her vote be recorded as for or against.
As I explained to the board in asking that an electronic voting system be considered, those who elect us should know how each of us votes on issues.
In supporting my motion yesterday, I pointed out that there are electronic voting systems designed specifically for councils and boards. Votes are taken with councillors or directors clicking on for or against buttons rather than by a show of hands.
The vote results appear on screens with the names of directors and how they voted. The TNRD board room already has two large screens.
Such systems not only avoid human error, speed up vote counts and automatically record exact vote tallies, they make it much easier for the audience at meetings to follow along. They solve line of sight issues that might occur under the current system when the chair is counting hands.
The systems can be rented or leased rather than purchased if the board chooses.
I noted that previously boards wrestled with improvements such as installing microphones in the board room and providing directors with laptop computers to reduce the amount of paper needed for the massive agendas produced for each board meeting.
I opposed both those measures when they came up years ago but I see now they were part of a natural evolution in making board meetings more efficient. “It just goes to show you I can be wrong,” I said, suggesting electronic voting would be the next step.
Director Arjun Singh (City of Kamloops), proposed an amendment to my motion that staff also investigate live video streaming of board meetings. I and several others supported the amendment but it was defeated.
While debate on my motion wasn’t lengthy, it can be summed up in opposing views expressed by Director Linda Brown (mayor of Merritt) and Director Sally Watson (Electoral Area E).
“When we make a vote we approve it or not as a team and I don’t understand the purpose of having all these individual votes recorded,” said Brown.
Watson replied, “We try to be a team but when our constituents want to know how we voted on their concerns it’s really important that they be able to find out…. I think it’s a good idea.”
I can’t give you an exact tally of the vote outcome because I can’t count hands that quickly, and sight lines interfered, but I do know that directors Arjun Singh, Sally Watson, Dale Bass (City of Kamloops) and I voted for it.
Among those voting against it were Ken Christian and Mike O’Reilly of the City of Kamloops, and Ronaye Elliott (Electoral Area J), Carol Schaffer (Electoral Area A), board Chair Ken Gills (Electoral Area L), Bill Kershaw (Electoral Area O), Robin Smith (Mayor of Logan Lake), Ines Popig (Councillor, Sun Peaks), Linda Brown (Mayor of Merritt), Steven Rice (Electoral Area I), Barbara Roden (Mayor of Ashcroft), Jan Polderman (Mayor of Lytton) and David Laird (Electoral Area M).
I apologize for those I’ve left out, or if there are any errors.
As Director Watson and I were the only ones asking that our votes be recorded, the minutes will show that the motion was defeated, with Directors Watson and Rothenburger in favour.
As always, I respect the democratic decision of the board. Here’s the full text of my motion:
WHEREAS transparency and accountability are fundamental to our democratic process;
AND WHEREAS citizens have an interest in and a right to know how their elected representatives vote on resolutions and issues put before them;
AND WHEREAS municipal councils and senior governments commonly record the votes of their members on public business, leaving the TNRD as an anomaly in this respect;
AND WHEREAS modern electronic voting systems are capable of instantaneously providing exact results for votes taken by elected bodies, which streamlines the voting process;
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Board direct administration to investigate the cost of options for an electronic voting system for Board meetings, and report back to the Board by the first regular Board meeting in June, and
FURTHER BE IT RESOLVED that administration also report back to the board at that same meeting on any changes to the Board’s Code of Conduct and Procedure Bylaw that would be necessary in order to be consistent with the tallying of Board votes with an electronic voting system.
Director Mel Rothenburger can be contacted at email@example.com.