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The Drum Beat Grows Louder for Internet Voting in Canada
Before being elected as the Premier of British Columbia, which borders the US state of Washington, Christy Clark pledged that she would have her government explore the possibility of using Internet voting in BC. On August 9, 2012, BC’s Attorney General Shirley Bond announced that she had officially requested the chief electoral officer, Keith Archer, to appoint an independent panel to review the best practices for Internet voting from other Canadian jurisdictions.
Attorney General Bond explained that, “As a society, we’ve grown increasingly comfortable with the Internet as a tool. In fact, 93 per cent of British Columbians now have access to high-speed Internet, making us one of the most connected jurisdictions in the world. Many of us have grown accustomed to the convenience the Internet offers and we often rely on it for functions like online banking, shopping and booking travel plans.
“This shows the potential Internet voting has to increase accessibility and convenience and reinvigorate democracy in British Columbia. However, when it comes to something as integral to our democracy as our electoral process, it is imperative that the appropriate precautions are taken.”
Just last week, September 9, 2012, Elections BC announced that the formation of the five member panel is complete. Chaired by Keith Archer, the panel will also include two other BC government officials, and two university computer science professors.
The panel will address such issues as the benefits of Internet voting, security, and electoral administration, as these have been outlined in an Elections BC discussion paper. The panel will soon have a website, which will give progress reports and invite citizen participation.
An independent nation of Native Canadians in British Columbia will use Internet voting this November in their General Assembly. That “is where our citizens come together to make important decisions,” said Huu-ay-aht councilor John Jack, who is spearheading this project in direct e-democracy.
In response to popular demand, Alberta, which borders Montana, has recently re-written its election laws to allow Internet voting. Eager to get going, Edmonton, capital of Alberta, will hold a mock election in late October to test its Internet voting system.
In Winnipeg, the capital of Manitoba, which shares a border with North Dakota and Minnesota, there is concern that only one third of the residents under 25 voted in the last election, which is typical of Canadian youth. Demands have been made for a compulsory voting law. In response, the Winnipeg Free Press published an editorial on August 14, 2012, calling for the use of Internet voting, to make the vote more convenient and appealing to youth, rather than to use force.
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