|August 15th, 2012 by Student Vote||2 Comments »|
With less than 10 months to go until the B.C. provincial election, Premier Christy Clark says her government is keeping a promise to modernize British Columbia’s electoral process. Earlier this month, British Columbia’s Attorney General Shirley Bond asked Nola Western, the province’s deputy chief electoral officer, to set up an independent panel to consider the potential of online voting, how it has been used in other jurisdictions, and any potential problems that could arise from its use.
|For the 2011 B.C. municipal elections, voter turnout levels were as low as 30 per cent. In the 2009 B.C. provincial election, turnout was 50 per cent. According to Western, the results of this study could lead to “the possibility of Internet voting in British Columbia both at the provincial level and the local government level.”||
EXPERT PANEL TO BE CONSULTED
The CBC notes that experts in cryptography, Internet security, electoral administration and technology in general will be consulted as part of the independent panel. The independent panel will examine possible technological and issues related to security, safety, privacy, and anonymity before considering putting online voting into use. A public consultation process will also be included.
Online voting has already been used in several Canadian cities, like Markham, Ontario (which we wrote about last November) and Halifax, Nova Scotia. While voter turnout did not increase in these cities, Western believes there are other potential benefits: “It certainly would help accessibility, especially for voters with disabilities.”According to the Toronto Star, the panel could meet for the first time as early next month. It will be up to the legislature to decide whether or not to implement online voting, but it’s unlikely that could be done before the next May’s provincial election, according to Western.
OPPOSITION AND RISKS
Despite public interest in the idea, Kamloops City Councillor Arjun Singh still prefers the traditional voting booth: “I like the idea of being able to go into a booth where some other people are there and they can monitor whether people are being influenced or coerced,” Singh said.
A common criticism of online voting is that it could allow for fraud and coercion. When large numbers of ballots are cast from computers in homes and public places, voters are more vulnerable to coercion from friends, parents, family members or their employer who might force them to vote in way that does not reflect their true beliefs and intentions. As well, the theft of personal information could lead to ballots being cast without the knowledge of the individual, and having personal information submitted online makes all voters more susceptible to identity theft- this could deter turnout. Singh notes that “one of the perks to our system now is you have to go on your own into a little bit of an enclosure.”
We have previously written about how online voting improves convenience without addressing any of the underlying causes that contribute to low voter turnout. Port Moody Mayor Mike Clay thinks that online voting is inevitable, but worries that “it won’t compel people to become more involved. It will just make it easier for them to vote without getting better educated.”
However, any efforts that encourage civic participation and engagement are worth our consideration. As long as the independent panel can ensure the integrity of ballots cast on the internet, Bond is “optimistic” that online voting could improve accessibility and engagement in the province.
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