Friday November 5, 2010

Local News

Why Can't We Vote In Elections Online?

 E-vote in your pajamas

Staff/Voice Archived story - November 2009


f we can buy and participate in just about anything online, including registering to vote, doing our taxes, banking and paying bills, then why can't we E-vote in municipal and provincial or even federal elections online?

To find out why, the Voice contacted Amie Foster, Executive Program Manager for Elections BC and according to her, until recently, voting online hasn't been an option for a number of reasons however she thinks that the technology is out there and it won't be too long now before people can participate in elections from the privacy of their own home.

"Legislation in the province of British Columbia does not currently allow Elections BC to conduct electronic voting in provincial elections. However, senior voting officials across the country are studying opportunities for electronic voting and, Elections Canada has committed itself to piloting internet-based voting in a by-election before the end of 2013," says Foster.

E-voting has been tried in Arizona where testing took place over a four-day period. Imagine no lineups. Voters received a certificate and a PIN in the mail to each person eligible to E-vote. Voters simply logged onto the site with their PIN and two other pieces of personal identification. The information was electronically checked against their voter registration records. So long as the data matched, voters could simply click on candidates of choice. Their PINs were then electronically "punched" so that they couldn't be used again. Barring glitches, this process took approximately two minutes of a voter's time.

Where implemented, online voting has changed the composition of the electorate and influences election outcomes. Arizona Democrats nearly tripled their participation from 1996.

"Electronic voting does not come without its own set of challenges," Foster said. "These include; Authentication; How do we know who is on the other end of the network connection and how do we know they havenít already voted? Secrecy of the vote; how do we know who voted, but separate how they voted from who they are, and, Verification/transparency; How do we show that how the ballot was cast is exactly how it was counted, and how do we reliably re-create the ballot count without a paper audit trail?"

Foster admits there are some snafus in the system that need ironing out but is optimistic that any issues can be resolved. "These problems are being addressed. Electronic voting is likely a natural evolution that will occur independently by way of legislation at each of the three levels of government in the future."

Voting online has a positive environmental spin; it uses less pulp therefore fewer trees are harvested for ballot paper and proponents of voting from home say that casual dress is a must.

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