There’s been a lot said re online voting and computer problems recently. On March 12, the Pearson Airport in Toronto was shut down for hours due to a computer glitch.
The provincial leadership election illuminated some of the problems which were, and can be, experienced with the online voting process.
I was one of many who found themselves unable to cast their vote online so a suggestion was made that I travel to a centre in London where assistance would be provided.
On Feb. 15 last year, CBC News posted that a cybersecurity expert at Western University said a new method of hacking that affected websites in Canada and around the world raised security concern for Ontario municipalities that plan to use online voting in elections later this year. Toronto said NO to online voting after looking at the idea, then opting to stay with paper ballots. Guelph Council turned its back on online voting after hearing from 15 delegations, including a couple of Internet experts from Kitchener and London who warned them that online voting threatens the integrity of the voting system, largely because of the risk of hacking.
As well, Elections Ontario determined that although reports identified a number of potential benefits of alternative voting, the risks and limitations including security concerns and breaches could jeopardize the integrity of the voting process. Included were (1) the lack of available, secure digital authentication mechanisms, (2) the lack of transparency including a vote audit for recount purposes, due to the lack of a paper trail and (3) the challenge in accessing the Internet for some electors.
On Nov. 9 last year, Sarnia’s clerk sent a memo to the Council saying that the 2014 Municipal election cost totalled $204,333.38. She wrote that the internet/telephone voting method for the 2018 election would realize a potential cost savings of approximately $24,000. to $36,000. EXCLUDING additional costs for software and support services. She stated that other savings would be in remuneration as fewer election workers will be required in the 2018 election. If the city proposes to have people available to assist anyone having difficulty casting their vote online, just how many workers will be required to do this and has this cost been estimated?
The decision to implement online voting was made on March 20 of last year even though council had until May 1 to make this determination. There was ample time to advise the community and invite public input.
Sarnia hired Intelivote, a Nova Scotia based system but even its president and founder admitted no system is completely impenetrable. Some residents worry that without a paper ballot to back up the electronic system, the results could be compromised and no one would ever know it.
Locals have been pushing for paper ballots. At a meeting last September, comments from attendees included ‘I want proof of who I voted for’ and ‘the cost of paper ballots is much less than the cost of people losing their right to vote’ and ‘people have the option of going to the bank or banking online ~ they have a choice’.
Zack Taylor, an assistant professor of political science at Western University said ‘I worry about electronic voting----there’s something reassuring about having a paper ballot.’
The Federal Government still relies on paper ballots, hand marked by voters and hand counted by officials under the watchful eye of scrutineers from each of the major parties. It is always verifiable – you can always go back to your paper trail.
The argument made in favour of online voting is that it will be more convenient and encourage more people to vote.
In a recent letter to the editor, a Camlachie resident described those lobbying for paper ballots as a ‘backward group lobbying to remain backward as others move forward to be more inclusive and aware of the voting public’. This group made it abundantly clear that they are not opposed to technology but, until such time as online voting has proven to be secure, voters must have the option of paper ballots.
Sarnia, together with municipalities in Lambton County were convinced to opt for online voting this October. Former Sarnia and former Lambton Shores Clerk, Nancy Wright –Laking indicated ‘cost saving’ would result if all municipalities hired the same firm. Does this ‘cost saving’ justify making such an important change without the input of the residents of the area? And, will there actually be a cost saving?
With the upcoming election, it is time to look around and decide what it is we want to see in people we choose to represent us for the next few years. We must seek out people who are both honest and trustworthy, not those who simply tell you what you want to hear.
We need people who are aware of what is going on and who possess the skills and intelligence to make required changes, people with leadership skills and integrity. A suitable representative would have some experience in related matters and be reliable. He or she must be decisive, not one who waffles and fears saying what needs to be said. Are we satisfied with the status quo or is it time to seek out candidates who will sincerely represent the voters, not those who make promises with no intention of keeping them?
It is of the utmost importance to be governed by those we elect, not by administrators who make decisions that are rubber stamped by ineffective councillors.