Canada’s National Debate over Internet Voting: Part 2

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Successes of internet voting in Canada
Credit: Elections Canada

Markham

Markham, Ontario, which is just a short drive from Detroit, Michigan, is a model of Internet voting success. In 2003, Markham became the first city in Canada to offer an online voting option to its voters. Voters and officials alike were so pleased with the trial, that Internet voting has been offered there ever since. While turnout overall was quite similar in 2003 compared with figures from 2000 (about 28 percent), 2006 early voting turnout, in which Internet voting was used, increased by nearly 300%!

According to a 2010 study of Markham voters who voted online in that year, conducted by political scientist Nicole Goodman, 99% of online voters reported being satisfied with the new technology. The same percent also said they would be likely to vote online in future municipal elections, and that they would be likely to vote online in a provincial and federal election if it were available. Of the 17,231 Markham voters who registered to vote electronically, 10,597 – nearly 2/3 – used the Internet to cast their ballots. Slightly more than a third of young people aged 18 to 24 said they either probably wouldn’t or definitely wouldn’t have voted had Internet voting not been an option; and nearly 40% of them said they felt “encouraged” to vote because of the new technology.

The Peterborough Experience

City officials in Peterborough, Ontario, were so impressed by the success of Internet voting in Markham that they tried it in 2006. Satisfaction was so high that they did it again in 2010. Like Markham, Peterborough chose to use remote Internet voting for a five-day early voting period.

The City reported after the vote that they put “tremendous security methods in place and felt very comfortable the system was secure,” and that no security issues or risks required attention.

Surprisingly, in the very first election with online voting, the largest group of users was baby boomers. Specifically, 70 percent of online voters were 45 and older, and the highest rate of use was among voters aged 55 to 64.

This is particularly interesting because Peterborough has the second largest senior population in Canada. Clearly, remote Internet voting is not just a feature that attracts young Canadians.

Halifax, Nova Scotia

Halifax, not far from the US state of Maine, first introduced remote Internet voting in its municipal and school board elections in 2008. The trial included a potential 276,000 voters and was contracted to a locally established company, Intelivote, who had previously run elections for eight small Ontario townships in 2006. Among its innovations, Intelivote created a “decline to vote” button which was presented along with the candidate names so that electors could exercise this right. The company also hired “white hat” hackers to try and penetrate the system; but the security was sound. Early voting turnout doubled. This option continues to be offered.

In the Next Segment: The Drum Beat Grows Louder for Internet Voting in Canada

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Leave a Comment
  1. Matt Metzner The difficulty doesn't lie in the technology or access, it's found in public perception and reliance on poor information. The column has plenty of info covering security and potential fraud.
  2. Ron Hurst Libraries give access to computers if you don't have one also
  3. Steve Stratton @Tina ... voting fraud is a fact of life in many cities today, it can't get any worse with online voting. Online voting would increase the number of people voting and almost everyone has access to a computer. Besides absentee ballots and voting booths will still be around for those that don't want to vote online. Voter ID laws also need to be passed to decrease the fraud.
  4. Tina Stephens Fraud and not everyone has access to a computer.
  5. Mark Bellamy If banking can be secure enough online then voting can be too....its a matter of will not ability.
  6. Robert Schmid Given the problems with our current black box voting machines, I can't imagine this working in America right now. In order for it to work it needs; 1) To be based on open source software which is exposed to the "wild" for a couple of years so that hackers can expose weaknesses and developers can harden the software. Proprietary software is a non-starter 2) It must have a paper trail. This should be easy because voters could print a copy of their ballots on their printers. Servers would need to be able to print copies of all ballots as well if necessary. 3) Voters would need to pre-register to ensure that security was properly set and personalized. This would probably have to be done in person at a government office.
  7. Lana Gail Osborne Dearing Legitimate voter ID should be shown at all voting places and should have maybe another form of ID as well like a bill or something to double verify that you are legal. That would keep people from voting with a dead persons Identity. That is just wrong no matter who you are.
  8. Honda Guy Disadvantage = Hackers
  9. Jason Harsha It would be too easily manipulated. Whether it is through a programed "bot" that votes for a particular candidate or proposal or whether through a rigged tallying program, computers (especially at home) are too susceptible to outside manipulation.
  10. Carol Belflower Bland No way should it ever happen. There are already too many dead people voting.
11 comments
Matt Metzner
Matt Metzner

The difficulty doesn't lie in the technology or access, it's found in public perception and reliance on poor information. The column has plenty of info covering security and potential fraud.

Ron Hurst
Ron Hurst

Libraries give access to computers if you don't have one also

Steve Stratton
Steve Stratton

@Tina ... voting fraud is a fact of life in many cities today, it can't get any worse with online voting. Online voting would increase the number of people voting and almost everyone has access to a computer. Besides absentee ballots and voting booths will still be around for those that don't want to vote online. Voter ID laws also need to be passed to decrease the fraud.

Tina Stephens
Tina Stephens

Fraud and not everyone has access to a computer.

Mark Bellamy
Mark Bellamy

If banking can be secure enough online then voting can be too....its a matter of will not ability.

Robert Schmid
Robert Schmid

Given the problems with our current black box voting machines, I can't imagine this working in America right now. In order for it to work it needs;

1) To be based on open source software which is exposed to the "wild" for a couple of years so that hackers can expose weaknesses and developers can harden the software. Proprietary software is a non-starter

2) It must have a paper trail. This should be easy because voters could print a copy of their ballots on their printers. Servers would need to be able to print copies of all ballots as well if necessary.

3) Voters would need to pre-register to ensure that security was properly set and personalized. This would probably have to be done in person at a government office.

Lana Gail Osborne Dearing
Lana Gail Osborne Dearing

Legitimate voter ID should be shown at all voting places and should have maybe another form of ID as well like a bill or something to double verify that you are legal. That would keep people from voting with a dead persons Identity. That is just wrong no matter who you are.

Jason Harsha
Jason Harsha

It would be too easily manipulated. Whether it is through a programed "bot" that votes for a particular candidate or proposal or whether through a rigged tallying program, computers (especially at home) are too susceptible to outside manipulation.

Carol Belflower Bland
Carol Belflower Bland

No way should it ever happen. There are already too many dead people voting.

Rodolfo Villasenor
Rodolfo Villasenor

Yes, anything that would help make our voting count much more transparent and efficient.