Canada’s top two elections officials say a bill to modernize election laws will make it difficult to stop computer hackers from sowing chaos that confuses voters, deterring them from casting ballots and undermining confidence in the electoral system. Bill C-76, omnibus legislation to reform election laws, creates a new offence of computer interference in response to attempts by hackers in other countries to undermine the electoral process. While he supports the additional offence, chief electoral officer Stéphane Perrault says the bill requires proof that the offender intended to affect the result of the election. He says that qualifier will “greatly restrict the application of the new offence,” letting off the hook hackers who simply sow confusion.
Yves Côté, the commissioner of elections, echoes Perrault’s concern.
The two watchdogs registered their concern during testimony on the bill before the Senate, which is beginning its examination of the legislation.
“Recent history suggests that interference may be designed with the intent to sow distrust and confusion, potentially undermining voters’ confidence in the process or willingness to vote — not necessarily to affect the result of the election,” Perrault told the upper house Tuesday.