Markham’s online voting efforts earn national award

The City of Markham, the first in the country to offer online voting, has earned national recognition for its efforts in the 2022 election.

The Canadian Association of Municipal Administrators (CAMA) presented Markham with the 2023 CAMA Willis Award for Innovation in the over 100,000-population category for Innovating Democracy: 2022 Markham Municipal Election.

“This recognition reaffirms our position as an innovative and forward-thinking municipality committed to paving the way when it comes to digital democracy,” says Mayor Frank Scarpitti. “By continuing to modernize our municipal elections, we were able to break down barriers making voting accessible to all voters leading to Markham’s largest online voter turnout since 2003, when we were Canada’s first city to offer online voting as an option.”

The Willis Award for Innovation recognizes programs, projects or services that demonstrate new approaches to leading, facilitating or administering which result in positive changes to local government processes and practices, and ultimately offer outstanding benefits to the organization and the community.

Markham maintains one of North America’s longest-running online voting programs. In 2022, it launched several new and ground-breaking service enhancements leveraging automation, business and artificial intelligence, and advanced cryptography to streamline service delivery, drive engagement and further public trust in next-generation voting technologies.

Those enhancements include on-demand eSignature services for election registration; a multi-platform, multi-language and data-driven community engagement strategy; and Canada’s first election to feature online voting with independent post-vote ballot verification technology.

Markham credits those innovations with accelerating key service processing times by 45 to 60 per cent. Together, they also led to Markham’s highest ever online voter turnout at 93 per cent and marked a “critical breakthrough” in the development of national online voting standards, the City reports. Its 2022 municipal election represents an “important turning point” in electoral practice, both locally and beyond, it adds.

“The City’s use of cutting-edge automation and business intelligence software has presented an important case study for municipalities in how to balance the increasing demands and complexities of today’s dynamic legislated service environment with enhancing the citizen experience,” says CAMA President Bev Hendry, CAMA Member-At-Large for Municipalities with Populations Under 100,000 and CAO for the Township of West Lincoln.

“Markham has been a longstanding leader in embracing digital technologies and finding innovative solutions in the delivery of services,” Markham CAO Andy Taylor says. “This prestigious award recognizes the City of Markham’s commitment to deliver a voting process that is accessible, user friendly and efficient, including the ability to vote online.”

CAMA’s Annual Awards Program encourages excellence in professional municipal administration. Awards of Excellence recognize the achievements of local governments and their senior staff in the development and implementation of successful programs, projects or services. Awards are granted according to population in three categories: for municipalities with a population under 20,000, those with a population between 20,001 and 100,000, and those with a population of more than 100,000. Three awards are granted in professional development, environmental leadership, and sustainability and innovation for a total of nine awards.

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