A small group of election officials from across Canada who observed a ground-breaking plebiscite vote on P.E.I. has concluded online and telephone voting should be considered only under limited circumstances in Canada in the foreseeable future, given the risks involved. P.E.I.’s plebiscite on electoral reform, held over a 10-day period in October and November 2016, allowed voters to participate by voting online, by telephone, or with a traditional paper ballot. It was the first time in Canada online voting was included as an option in a province-wide election. More than 80 per cent of Island voters who participated voted online. An audit team made up of election officials from across the country was assembled to observe the vote. That team concluded that, while online voting was secure enough for a non-binding plebiscite in Canada’s smallest province, “a perfectly secure and fool-proof electronic voting system does not yet exist.” Because of the “major risks” associated, the audit team concluded online and telephone voting for federal and provincial elections in Canada “should be limited to use only by absentee voters for the immediate foreseeable future.”
The group concluded a high-stakes provincial or federal election could attract groups looking to intervene in illicit ways through cyber-attacks, hacking or other means.
Even the company that administered the online voting on P.E.I. agrees. The president of Simply Voting Inc., Brian Lack. is quoted in the report saying, “the heightened threat level of a federal election pushes the security of internet voting past its limits and poses too much of a risk.”
… The report cites other risks with online voting, including some which would be difficult to mitigate, among them:
- the increased risk that voters could be coerced to vote a particular way
- the risk of people voting using stolen credentials
- breaches of voting secrecy (Islanders published selfies of themselves voting in front of their computer screens).
The audit team did note that security provisions for the P.E.I. plebiscite were “appropriately robust and secure,” and said no serious issues occurred.