This month Elections P.E.I. sent out more than a hundred thousand voter information packages to Islanders registered to vote in the plebiscite on electoral reform. Each letter contains a unique personal identification number (PIN) which can be used to vote online or over the phone. The only other information needed to cast a ballot using that PIN is the person’s date of birth. Inevitably, some PINs have been delivered to the wrong people. All that might be needed to use that person’s PIN to cast a ballot could be a visit to their Facebook page. “This is not a fool-proof system,” said chief electoral officer Gary McLeod. “And that’s one of the risks that we have right now.” It is illegal under P.E.I.’s Plebiscite Act to vote for someone else, McLeod pointed out. Offenses can lead to fines of up to $2,000 or imprisonment for up to two years. “We can track where the vote is put on from— if somebody notices that somebody’s voted and it wasn’t them – we can actually go in and track where that vote came from” using their IP address, McLeod said.
Early Monday afternoon Elections P.E.I. said it was investigating two cases of possible voter fraud, where voters complained they tried to vote online but were told they had already done so, but the agency quickly concluded those were cases of voter error.
Elections P.E.I said it doesn’t know how many voter PINs were sent to the wrong addresses. There was no door-to-door enumeration for the plebiscite — or for the recent byelection in Summerside Wilmot. Under recent changes to the P.E.I. Elections Act, Elections P.E.I. is now able to collect information from public agencies like Health PEI for the purposes of compiling a list of electors. This information was used in conjunction with the voter list for the 2015 provincial election.
Elections P.E.I. said it could have used a more robust online security system, requiring every voter to provide a personal security question which they would have to answer in order to vote online. “There are options that were available, but what happens when you have more robust systems, you start to decrease the number of people who are voting because it’s much more challenging to be able for them to vote online.”