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People in Petrolia and Warwick will vote in 2018 with the click of a mouse or by phone instead of  marking an X with a pencil.

Both councils have approved contracts for Internet voting with Intelivote System Inc. to take care of its voting procedures. The two municipalities were among a group of Lambton municipalities that asked for proposals together.

With Internet and phone balloting, voters would get an envelope in the mail with a series of security codes. Over a period of 10 days, they could either log on or call to cast their ballots.

Deputy Clerk Mandi Pearson told council Monday there would be extensive training for the staff so they will be equipped to help anyone who might be having problems. People who are unfamiliar with computers will also be able to vote at town hall with the help of staff over the 10 day voting period.

Pearson is now working on a detailed public service plan to make sure the transition from traditional ballots to Internet and telephone voting is smooth

Some councillors are enthusiastic about the idea. “This is going to attract a lot of younger people who might not otherwise vote,” says Councillor Grant Purdy.

Councillor Joel Field admits he had some reservations about the idea but went to a meeting where the process was explained and found it was “user friendly.

“People who want to mark their X, now they just hit their X.”

And Field says while there is some concern seniors might be nervous about the idea of computerized voting, he expects it won’t be a problem.

“I’m surprised every day with seniors with iPads and iPhones – there are a lot out there and it is neat to see everyone has evolved with the technical side of things.”

The contract with Intelivote says Petrolia will spend $14,718 on Internet and telephone voting or about $3 per eligible voter. By the time the 2018 election rolls around, the town will have $16,000 in the election reserve, more than enough to cover the cost of contract. Pearson tells The Independent the Internet and phone voting system will save $5,000 and staff time on election day in 2018.

Councillors in Warwick also approved Internet and telephone voting Monday.

It will cost Warwick about $11,000 or about $3.31 per eligible voter. It already has abut $16,000 in the election reserve.

If the eight municipalities involved in the contract process agree to the move, the municipalities will save about four per cent of the cost. So far, the only other municipality to give the okay is Sarnia.

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