Canada’s National Debate over Internet Voting

Unlike the USA, all of Canada is debating whether or not to make Internet voting a part of its election technology. The discussion has been building steam over the past year or so. Here is my first report in a coming series on the topic.

Canada, unlike the USA, has a government agency that organizes and conducts its national elections, called Elections Canada. Here, in the USA, the two major political parties do that. In 2011, the Chief Electoral Officer of Elections Canada submitted his Report and Recommendations on Canadian Elections to the House of Commons (available online at Elections Canada ). In it he wrote:

Convenience in electoral services

“The … needs and expectations of Canadians are evolving. They live in a world replete with electronic services and increasingly expect a range of options that provide them with more flexibility and accommodate their busy schedules. … Increasingly, Canadians expect to be able to conduct their business electronically, including when they engage in the electoral process. This is why Elections Canada has been preparing to provide e-services. Electors and candidates alike look for services that are available wherever they happen to be, when they want the services and on their own terms. Meeting their expectations requires new approaches.

Voter registration

… Alberta and British Columbia have introduced online voter registration, while Ontario is developing a similar system. … Elections Canada will begin offering limited online registration services in the spring of 2012 …

Internet voting

Elections Canada has been examining Internet voting as a complementary and convenient way to cast a ballot. The Chief Electoral Officer is committed to seeking approval for a test of Internet voting in [elections] held after 2013.”

Elections Canada took up this new policy position after Internet voting had proven itself in several Canadian cities. Indeed, there are reports that more than 40 municipalities in Ontario and Eastern Canada conduct a portion of voting online.

In the Next Segment: The internet voting experiences of some major Canadian cities.