The provincial government wants to bring in online voting for municipal elections as early as 2014, but has to change legislation first, Community, Sport and Cultural Development Minister Ida Chong said Wednesday. Speaking to reporters at the Union of B.C. Municipalities Convention in Vancouver, Chong said both she and Premier Christy Clark support the concept of voting over the Internet.
“I don’t believe it is impossible. We’re very keen on it,” she said, but cautioned, “It is still two-and-a-half, three years away in terms of changing legislation. I think it is possible.”
Her comments came as UBCM delegates called on the province to enact changes that would allow them to conduct online votes, even though some delegates raised concerns about security and the potential for ballot fraud.
Governments across Canada have been increasingly exploring the idea of allowing people to vote electronically without visiting a polling station. More than 40 municipalities in Ontario and Eastern Canada already conduct a portion of their votes through the Internet.
In May Vancouver council adopted a plan to introduce Internet voting for advance polls in the Nov. 19 civic election. But Chong killed the idea after ministry officials and B.C.’s chief information officer raised concerns about a lack of enabling legislation.
“We found that there was no mechanism in the legislation, whether it was the Vancouver Charter, the Community Charter or Local Government Act to allow it to proceed,” she said Wednesday.
“Elections BC said they were hearing more about this issue, they were wanted to be involved in the process.”
Despite the attractiveness of offering residents another way of interacting with local government, the idea isn’t universally supported by politicians.
“I have to acknowledge our failure in engaging certain segments of the population and that has to be worked on. But I don’t think this is the way,” protested Sunshine Coast regional district director Lorne Lewis. “To me, this motion tears at the fabric of democracy. It is tugging at the thread of privacy and privacy of your decision to vote is part of enacting your conscience to vote.”