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

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One thought on “Online Voting – Another perspective

  1. My thanks to Councilor Downer for contributing this helpful and balanced perspective on internet voting. I very much like the idea of continuing (i.e. as we did in 2014) with internet voting for the advanced polls, while holding off on internet voting on the actual election day for at least the next municipal election. Councilor Downer’s points that lead me to this preference are as stated above: “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”.

    Looking forward to other points of view and discussion.

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