Online Voting Decision Tonight

voter_fraud_1050x700Tonight (Monday, April 24) City Council will make its decision to offer — or not offer — online voting as an option in the next municipal election in the fall of 2018.  On April 5th, at Committee of the Whole, I moved a motion to remove online voting as an option, which passed in a 7-5 vote.  Since that day, members of council have received hundreds of letters and emails on both sides of the issue.  This issue is obviously important to our community and the debate is a healthy one.  It has given proponents of online voting an opportunity to make their case, to present compelling evidence in favour of internet voting, and to refute the research highlighting serious concerns about the list of electors and software security.

Over the course of the last two weeks, I have been prepared to have my mind changed.  I was open to hearing about major improvements to the voter’s list.  I waited to hear expert testimony and research demonstrating the security of voting software.  I listened to arguments about accessibility for seniors and our disabled citizens, both for and against.  I was hopeful that internet security experts could verify that the online election process could be audited in a meaningful way to detect a fraudulent vote or software hacking.

After listening and weighing all of the community input,  I believe, now more than ever, that Guelph should not use online voting for its municipal election in 2018. 

I want to thank the many citizens who took the time to express their views on this important issue.  There were many compelling letters, for and against, on this important issue.  I read each one and considered the input carefully.  The case for convenience and accessibility for voters with disabilities has merit.  These concerns were also addressed by writers who proposed that accessibility needs could be met in alternative ways.   Of all the submissions, three in particular stand out that cannot be ignored.

Submission of Richard Akerman

Submission of Cameron Shelley

Letters from Susan Watson

Given overwhelming evidence about the risks to our local democracy if we move forward with internet voting, it would be irresponsible of me to support its use.  I anticipated that the supplementary report released by the Clerk in advance of tonight’s meeting might have addressed some of the research and concerns submitted by the public, but no new arguments have been presented that would convince me that interest voting is reliable enough to entrust the outcome of the next election.

My obligation as your elected representation is to make decisions in the best interests of our residents.  Supporting an electoral process that is open to fraud and manipulation would be an abdication of my duty to protect the integrity of our local elections.

It is my hope that my fellow councillors will agree during the debate tonight that the concerns raised by letter-writers and delegations are serious enough to warrant a pause in online voting, and that Council will pass a unanimous vote to suspend internet voting in 2018.

LP

 

Online Voting – Another perspective

Online Voting – Another perspective

Dare I weigh in to the healthy debate our community is having about online voting!?
Of course, I will. I am willing to offer up my thoughts on this matter understanding that until I actually need to push the yea/nay button I am open to hearing other points of view. I do think I offer a unique perspective as I have been a Returning Officer in charge of delivering the provincial election here in Guelph.

I support online voting during the Advance Poll period as was done in the 2014 election but do not support the expansion to include Election Day. At the Committee of the Whole meeting on April 10th, I did not support the motion to remove internet voting completely.

I have concerns regarding the integrity of the voters list that the City receives from the the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC). I do not have complete confidence in MPAC’s voter registration process before the City takes control and this creates a vulnerability for fraud in the internet voting process. The City requires proof of ID for voter registration while MPAC requires no proof. Someone can register with MPAC and vote online without ever having to produce an ID of any kind. If you go to Elections Ontario’s website today, you can only register with valid ID. Elections Canada requires a driver’s license number. MPAC needs to have a similar requirement.

So why would I continue to support internet voting for the Advance Polls? There are many articles identifying the pros and cons, the successes and failures and lessons learned. What I do know is that internet voting has been used in Ontario municipalities since 2003 without any reported security or voter fraud issues. In the 2014 election 97 municipalities used internet voting. In Guelph 33% of people who voted used the internet. While I understand the jury is still out as to whether online voting increases voter turnout, Guelph’s voter turnout increased 10% from the 2010 election. We don’t know why. I believe the benefits of accessibility do outweigh any potential problems if limited to Advance Polls. Any voting system, including paper ballots, relies on the integrity of our electorate and those delivering election services.

The problems of the MPAC list extend to the paper ballot system as well. A person can register online with MPAC without ID and show up at a polling place and still not have to show ID to vote. As long as someone has a voter’s card, they only need to sign a declaration that states they are the person who is named on the card. Also, no proof of Canadian citizenship is ever requested in the voting process. The ID requirements are outlined in the Municipal Elections Act. The paper ballot system has its own unique set of problems.

Polling stations are mandated to be accessible for persons with disabilities and procedures are put in place to assist in the voting process. Election polls are set up in retirement homes and long term care facilities. Municipal elections do not require home or hospital visits as do their provincial or federal counterparts. The Ontario Human Rights Commission states that the “electoral principle of accessibility recognizes persons with disabilities should be able to vote without assistance.” Here is their supportive statement for internet voting in Toronto – http://ohrc.on.ca/ur/node/11576 Voting without assistance is important as it maintains dignity, independence and confidentiality. I would also point out that not all disabilities are ‘physical’.

Another reason I support internet voting during the advance polls is that candidates have an opportunity to see the list of anyone who has already voted in the Advance Polls. We receive this list before Election Day. I think large scale irregularities would be evident.

I acknowledge that many are concerned about security. I have asked our City Clerk to provide information regarding security measures used by the city for internet voting and have been told that there will be a supplementary information report for the April 24th Council meeting which will provide more in depth information about security and other issues raised by the public and Council. This report will be made available to the public.

Here is a link to the 2013 Council report which provided an analysis of alternative voting methods: http://guelph.ca/wp-content/uploads/StaffReport_GuelphMethodsOfVoting.pdf

Happy to hear respectful input!

Cathy

Online Voting is a Complex Question

Online Voting is a Complex Question

Recently, Council as Committee of the Whole voted (7-5) against the use of online voting during the 2018 municipal election.  As one of the councillors who voted to pause online voting for 2018, let me assure you that this issue is not black and white.

I try to do my homework before I make a decision — on any issue — and I can see both sides of the argument on this one.  The subject of internet voting is complex, and there are conflicting opinions across the country.  My challenge is to balance all of the input, test the known facts, and make the best possible decision in light of conflicting opinion.

Online voting is something I strongly support – in principle.   In fact, I voted in favour of implementing online voting for the 2014 election.   The 2014 experience led me to the conclusion that we have some very serious data and technology integrity issues that MUST be addressed before we use online voting again, in 2018 or beyond.

Specifically, the voter database supplied to the municipality by the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC).  Until they clean up their data, and their online registration process with more secure ways of verifying voter identity, we need to pause.  In addition, there must be an audit process available to test the integrity of the voting software during the real-time election period (before, during and after), as well as an identity test to verify an online elector is the person registered.

Confidence in the security of the democratic election process is more important than convenience.

I know all the arguments in favour of online voting – convenience, increased turnout, accessibility.   Many of these assertions are not evidence-based.   Below is an excellent recent article from Municipal World, a Canadian-based publication for municipal officials:

Municipal World article on Internet Voting, June 2016

There are clear requirements in the Elections Act that municipalities must make elections accessible to seniors and electors with disabilities, including setting up polling stations in institutional settings, nursing homes, and even going so far as empowering election officials to attend an elector in their private residence room.

Does voter fraud occur?  I don’t know.  That’s the problem.  There is no way to know, no audit trail, no traceable evidence.  But I do know that internet fraud is real and voter suppression tactics have taken place in the last two Canadian elections.

I use online banking, pay bills, online shopping, and many other services online.  I use them knowing they are generally safe, but also know that hacking and fraud occur regularly enough that my banks have anti-fraud departments, and that they will return my money if I am hacked.  It’s part of their cost of doing business.  Unfortunately, an audit to test the integrity of an online election is impossible.  If a vote is altered between the home computer (or mobile) and the Clerks office, there is no way to trace it because we can’t go back to the elector and ask them to confirm for whom they voted.  And we have no way of knowing that the voter behind the IP address is the elector to whom a voter card was issued.

One solution that I think would work well is now in place in Quebec — everyone is issued a Voter Registration ID # and is documented on a List of Electors for all three levels of government.  It is a unique ID similar to your SIN or CRA registration login.  The Voter ID number can travel with you if you move, and is deactivated when you die.  Municipalities get their voter registration data from the same central List of Electors.  I hope Ontario adopts a similar model.

I am hopeful we can return to online voting in the future.  Unfortunately, the new Elections Act requires us to make the decision for the 2018 election by May 1, 2017.  I’m not ready to support online voting until the integrity of the voter registration process and software products can withstand a higher level of scrutiny.

As always, I would love to hear your thoughts…

LP

Peeling Back the Petrie: Iconic Downtown Landmark is Coming Back to Life

When Tyrcathlen Partners developer Kirk Roberts bought the landmark downtown Petrie Building in 2015, he knew very well that a heritage restoration would bring a unique set of challenges.  It’s not his first rodeo (The Boarding House Arts and the Granary Building) and he clearly sees both personal, cultural and financial benefit in the restoration of unique heritage structures.   Roberts sees potential where others see dust and mud.  According to Roberts, “risk is part of the equation” in downtown, but the benefits far outweigh the challenges.  But for each challenge (such as easements, building codes, importing specialty products from France), there are also moments of discovery and accomplishment. For example, discovering the original 1909 signature of the wallpaper hanger on the wall of the third floor, or finding the opening of the original domed entrance to the main floor.

20170223_1014164

Kirk Roberts of Tyrcathlen Partners explains how the patina of the original stamped galvanized metal facade elements will be enhanced using six layers of a traditional linseed oil-based treatment called Le Tonkinois.

The Petrie Building is singularly unique.  It was built in 1882 by Alexander Bain Petrie, a pharmacist and inventor.  The designation of the building under the Ontario Heritage Act speaks to its rare and rich history:  the galvanized iron facade, the Petrie family, the ceiling heights, the Masonic “secret” rooms, and more.

Read about the history of the Petrie Building and its unique features here.

As the Petrie Building transformation get ready to be revealed in the coming months, Roberts was eager to show off the incredible architectural treasures found inside, and to promote how this building plays a key role in the identity of downtown Guelph.  He recently hosted a tour for members of Council and economic development and tourism staff as part of the lead up to Doors Open on Founders Weekend April 21 to 23, 2017.

During the tour, the brothers of Brothers Brewing Co. were busy building fixtures and furnishings using architectural salvage from the building.  Several years ago, while looking across the street at the derelict Petrie facade from a table at Van Gogh’s, they began to dream about opening a business in the very space they now occupy.  They refer to downtown Guelph as “our land of opportunity.”  Today, the brewing vats are installed and the bar — including a foot rail made from the old gas pipes — is almost ready for patrons to enjoy a pint.

Enjoy the tour …

Brothers Brewing

Brothers Asa and Colton Proveau, along with business partner Michael Bevan, call Guelph their “land of opportunity” and can’t wait to open their new brewing facility in downtown Guelph.

20170223_1025241

Original tin ceiling panels have been incorporated into the design of the handmade furnishings, including the bar (below) and brew keg taps.

20170223_1024241

Original gas pipes have been repurposed as the foot rail of the new bar at Brothers Ale House.

20170223_1026151

Brothers Ale House is taking shape and is set to open in May 2017.

20170223_1027461

Brothers Brewing equipment is installed and ready to go.

20170223_1042551

Elements of the original third floor were rediscovered as each layer was removed during restoration.  Wallpaper revealed the signature of the paperhanger in 1909.

20170223_1048411

On the third floor, door openings are original and wallpaper is still intact.

20170223_1053381

Twenty (20) foot ceilings make full use of the impressive windows at the front of the building.

20170223_1053461

Original crown and cove moldings are being restored.

20170223_1051011

The doorway entrance to the former Masonic Lodge meeting space is being opened up and restored using restoration arts specialists.

20170223_1049111

The large window opening at the back of the building reveals remnants of the original Western Hotel (on Macdonell) from the 1840s, which is still connected to the newer Petrie Building, built in 1882.

Ward 5 Hero: Jennifer Harrison

Ward 5 Hero: Jennifer Harrison

Leanne and I first met Jennifer Harrison in her role as one of the community leaders who challenged Hydro One over their plans to clear the hydro corridor in Silvercreek Park. Jennifer’s home backed onto the corridor. She became instrumental in bringing Hydro One, the City, the community and Trees for Guelph to the table to work out a plan for the retention of some trees and a plan for new plantings. It is because of Jennifer’s persistence that Hydro One donated $10,000 to Trees for Guelph to replant the corridor and turn it into a meadow of grasses and wildflowers.

Jennifer is also very involved with her children’s school, St Rene’ Goupil, where she is president of the school council. No surprise there! Jennifer is from a small French community in New Brunswick so she feels quite at home spending time volunteering with various activities, fundraising and supporting teachers. Jennifer says this is where she gets her ‘French fix’.

Outside of St. Rene’, she is part of Rainbow Day Camp and Supporting Kids in Camp programs. They teach kindness, inclusion and tolerance at camp in the hopes that kids will adopt these principles in their everyday life. Jennifer says, “I strongly believe that kindness is a choice and my hope is that I can help children choose kindness more often than not.”

We are so fortunate to have Jennifer in Guelph advocating for ‘kindness’ and for the wellbeing of our residents. Thank you Jennifer!

Jennifer is pictured here with her husband, Morrison, and their children, Max and Sam.

Ward 5 Hero: Eileen Hammill

Ward 5 Hero: Eileen Hammill

Locally, the history of the Guelph Public Library (GPL) is not told without mentioning the significant contributions of Eileen Hammill, a Board member for 30 years who retired in 2011. Eileen was always very well prepared for Board meetings, taking a businesslike approach to the many challenges facing the GPL. She was keen to hear about and research the latest trends in public libraries. Eileen understood that a free and accessible public library makes a significant difference in the lives of children and adults. In Eileen’s 30 years on the Board, the library increased its circulation from 400,000 to 1.8 million and grew from one location to six. The GPL was more successful than many other municipal libraries in the province. This was, in part, due to the strong leadership of board members like Eileen.

In the 1980’s Eillen played a lead role in the establishment of the Southern Ontario Library Service. In 1990, she was recognized as Trustee of the Year by the Ontario Public Library Association.

Eileen was and continues to be a strong advocate for a new main library in our Downtown. It is long overdue.

Eileen was also very interested in Guelph’s history and heritage buildings. In the 1960’s she served as the President of the Guelph Historical Society.

Thank you Eileen for your many years of determined and dedicated advocacy! Libraries matter! May your dream of a new home for our wonderful GPL be realized soon.