Tonight (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.
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.