Communities across Alberta are deciding whether or not they will participate in the province’s online voting pilot project during this year’s municipal elections. The provincial government officially selected St. Albert, Grande Prairie and Strathcona County for the experiment, but other jurisdictions have the option of signing up. Fort Saskatchewan’s town council recently decided it’s not for them. After several weeks of debate, Airdrie’s leaders voted on February 6 to give electronic ballots a try. … Governments are attracted to Internet-based voting because of its convenience — people can vote whenever they want to over the election period, from their home. And that convenience may lead to a higher turnout. Yet many in government and the public worry about the security of online voting.
Dean Smith is the president of Intelivote, a Halifax-based company that has provided Internet-voting services to roughly 300 communities and organizations in Canada, including the 2008 Halifax municipal election. He says companies like his are well aware of possible security threats, and make regular changes to its technology to ensure votes are valid and secure. He says Internet voting software makes it impossible for an outside party to add votes, and that protocols are in place to confirm a voter is who they say they are. Logging in to vote requires a government-issued PIN number, and systems like the one Strathcona is using will require voters to upload photo ID, such as their driver’s license, with their vote.
Smith admits such security measures still do not guarantee a vote’s authenticity, nor does it present one person in a household from collecting the PIN numbers and voting on behalf of everyone there. He argues that those security concerns are no different than identification issues at traditional polling stations, or the risk of mail-in ballots from being used by the wrong person.