Online voting has been used in Canada for about 15 years, but you’d never know it judging by the most recent municipal election. That looked like our first swing at cyber voting, as if we were still trying to iron out the wrinkles. But those were no mere wrinkles. Those weren’t glitches, or hiccups. That was an absolute meltdown, an unmitigated disaster for which inexperience is not an excuse. Though the meltdown affected more municipalities than our own, nowhere was the impact greater or more embarrassing than in Waterloo Region, where an entire community was left in limbo for almost 48 hours as it waited for the winner of the top political job to be announced. Yes, it’s easy to second guess in the aftermath of such a massive malfunction and the enormity of the disaster leaves plenty to criticize. But with the credibility of an election at stake, the scrutiny is warranted and analysis is necessary.
To start, what were we trying to accomplish through online voting? If increasing voter turnout is the goal, we’re failing on that score.
A City of Kitchener report found that “there is no evidence to show (online voting) increased voter turnout” and that this outcome was “true throughout most, if not all, internet voting trials.”
A similar study in British Columbia tells us “research suggests that internet voting does not generally cause non-voters to vote. Instead, internet voting is mostly used as a tool of convenience for individuals who have already decided to vote.”