Now is not the time for Internet voting: B.C. panel

Now is not the time for Internet voting: B.C. panel - image
AP Photo/Steven Senne

VICTORIA – Provincial and municipal governments should not implement Internet voting until a technical committee can study potential online systems and test security concerns, a panel formed by B.C.’s chief electoral officer recommended Wednesday.

The recommendations were submitted to the legislature by the Independent Panel on Internet Voting, which stated in its report that the current risks of implementing Internet voting in the province outweigh the benefits.

“The panel recommends to go slow on Internet voting in British Columbia,” Keith Archer, the chief electoral officer said in a news release.

“British Columbians must have confidence that their voting system is fair and trustworthy.”

The panel states that those who administer elections don’t have the technical expertise to evaluate voting systems, so the committee which would study the systems should include experts in Internet voting, cryptography and computer security.

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The technical committee should be appointed by and report to the chief electoral officer and remain independent from elected officials, political parties and those who sell Internet voting technologies, the panel recommended.

If governments decide to implement Internet voting now, they should limit it to voters with specific accessibility issues, recognizing there’s a “substantial” risk to the accuracy of results, and they should take a province-wide co-ordinated approach to the practice, stated the panel.

If Internet voting is used in the future, the panel recommended governments ensure the process is readily available to all, ballots are cast anonymously and only by eligible voters, and voters can verify their ballots have been cast, it adds.

The panel said governments must also ensure that only one vote per voter is counted, voting alternatives are available if Internet voting becomes unavailable or is compromised, and the identity of voters can be authenticated.

The panel states that while jurisdictions around the world have investigated Internet voting during the past 15 years, the practise has still not been implemented widely and is only used in a few places and only on a limited basis.

The chief electoral officer formed the panel Aug. 9, 2012 because the province wanted to assess the opportunities and challenges of Internet voting.

Comprised of the chief electoral officer and four additional members, the panel met 13 times between September 2012 and October 2013.

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It released a preliminary report and then gathered further public input, hearing from more than 100 individuals, as well as from Internet-security experts, groups representing the disabled and vendors of Internet voting technologies.

— By Keven Drews in Vancouver

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