Security of online voting cited as a concern
He’s spent the summer chatting with voters via Twitter and a web-based video feed, but when it come to actually casting ballots, Coun. Arjun Singh is still a fan of the 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.
The B.C. government has announced it will ask the province’s chief electoral officer to strike an independent panel to examine Internet voting.
Attorney General Shirley Bond said adding online voting to the range of options in B.C. could improve accessibility in elections — which could improve voter turnout that sagged to less than 30 per cent on average in the last round of B.C. municipal elections.
The panel will examine “best practices” for online votes in other provinces and jurisdictions.
However, critics of online voting argue there is more room for manipulation of online voting — or, just as problematically, claims of manipulation.
“It can be too easily hacked at the moment. Any electronic voting can be hacked. It’s not secure,” said Derek Cook, a political scientist at Thompson Rivers University, who points to online attacks that caused delays and party frustration during the federal NDP leadership vote in March.
“What happens if a group claims to have hacked a result, whether they did or not?”
That’s a concern Singh shares, but he’s also worried an online system could leave voters more vulnerable to coercion from friends, parents or other family members, should they not have the luxury of logging onto their computer in complete isolation.
“One of the perks to our system now is you have to go on your own into a little bit of an enclosure,” Singh said. “I like the idea of doing that.”
But, should the province manage to work out security and privacy issues, Singh does think online voting could help raise voter turnout in the city.
“It’s such a convenient way of voting that it could help us make it more accessible to a lot of different people,” he said.
Coun. Donovan Cavers told KTW he has similar concerns about the security of online voting, but said he would push for it to be adopted in Kamloops if the B.C. government can come up with a successful model.
“A lot of people have really busy schedules and voting’s not top of their priority list, so if you make it easier for them to do, more people, I assume, would participate,” he said.
Internet voting has been tried in other parts of the country, though not without some difficulties. During a round of local elections in Ontario in 2010, an online voting system being used by more than 30 local governments crashed, leading some communities to extend their voting period by up to 24 hours.
In 2008, Halifax added Internet voting during advance polling in an effort to boost turnout in its municipal election to 50 per cent. Turnout actually dipped to 37 per cent from 48 per cent in the previous election, in 2004.