SASKATOON – How convenient would it be if you could vote from the comfort of your own home, at work or if you were out of the country? According to tech experts if you can file your taxes online there’s no reason Canadians couldn’t cast their ballots the same way.
“There’s no technical reason why we can’t do it today,” said CEO and founder of Push Interactions, Chad Jones.
However, the benefits of voting in cyberspace seem obvious.
“The number one thing you hear from people with disabilities about access to voting is we’d like to vote from home and even better we’d like to vote on the internet,” said Jeremy Rayner, director of the Johnson-Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy.
Online voting could also help reverse low voter turnout among the young, although Rayner points out there is no hard studies to support this.
“My suspicions is that we would increase the participation of that very troubling group the 18- to 25-year-olds who are the least likely to participate right now.”
Both he and Jones still aren’t sure the traditional pencil and paper should be replaced with a more modern approach to voting. For Rayner, the single biggest obstacle has nothing to do with the security of the system if internet voting was made available.
“The issue is that it’s fundamental to our democratic system that our ballots should be free, free from influence, free from pressure of any kind and that’s why we go to the polls so we that we can be observed making our vote individually without being pressured by anyone.”
For Jones, the biggest con of internet voting would be if the system wasn’t secure and if an election could be swept because of a technology compromise. Additionally, Jones was concerned about the integrity and security surrounding an elector’s personal computer.
“I would be more concerned about maybe somebody hijacks your computer and votes for you and then you didn’t even vote but there was actually a vote cast on your behalf.”
Voters can now register online but Elections Canada says it has no plans at this time to introduce internet voting.
“In looking at what other jurisdictions were doing there was still real concern around the security issues, the viability issues and ensure internet voting has the integrity that we expect of the Canadian system,” said Diane Benson, media relations for Elections Canada.
“Until some of those security issues and integrity issues are really thoroughly addressed, it’s not something we would introduce or request that parliament allow us to try a pilot project on.”
Currently, Benson noted there are very few regions that allow internet voting on a national scale because of the challenges involved.
“You need to be able to verify that the person that is casting the ballot is the eligible elector, you need to make sure there’s a secure system for submitting that vote over the internet and you need make sure that they’re not being induced to vote one way or another.”
Another reason why more than 28 million possible electors in the country won’t see internet voting any time soon is more basic in nature but still a matter of contention.
“One of the real issues too is there is no one piece of voter identification that is available to all Canadians across Canada,” said Benson.