In an age of electronic communication, it seems archaic that voters in civic elections must physically show up at a polling station to cast their ballots. Some day, people surely will be able to vote using their computers, phones or iPods. However, that day need not arrive in 2013, when Edmontonians will again elect a city council. A new report to council shows that E-voting is something the city needs to enter very carefully.
The usual thinking about letting people vote remotely – by phone, computer or text message – is that it will encourage more people, especially young people, to fill out a ballot. However, the administration report going to city council points out that panellists at an Elections Canada workshop on e-voting said “it is not clear that E-voting actually increases overall turnout rates or the youth vote.”
What does seem clear is that E-voting has been problematic in a couple of countries that tried it. In the Netherlands, most spectacularly, a group hacked into computers on live television to show how easily the 2006 election results could be manipulated. The Dutch government has banned electronic remote voting because it thinks it can’t be made secure without a huge expenditure of money. Britain has also halted its trials of E-voting, because of problems with viruses and breaches of ballot security.
It’s a tricky business, remote voting. The system has to make sure it’s actually Joe Citizen doing the voting, not his teenage son; and it has to ensure that Doe’s wife Jane isn’t telling him how to vote.
Estonia is currently the only nation using E-voting successfully for national elections, although several Canadian cities – Peterborough, Markham and Halifax – are using the system. Here in Alberta, several municipalities are looking into the idea. Should Edmonton proceed, it makes sense to find a common sys-tem with other Alberta cities.
The new report also points out the cost to the city per voter might go up from $12.75 to $17.42. Multiply that increase by the 991,006 Edmonton voters who cast ballots in 2010 and you get more than $4 million in extra expense. And while closing some polling stations might save money, the city would have to think twice about doing that: surely some seniors and those without electronic gadgets will still expect to be able to come to a voting station.
The important thing for council to remember is, there’s no rush. The voting system in Edmonton isn’t broken.
Full Article: Op Ed: Don’t push panic button on E-vote.