Last Wednesday, council voted 11-2 that an online voting option will not be made available in the 2013 municipal election. Most of my fellow councillors shared the same general concern that I did: that the protection against manipulation was not sufficiently guaranteed to warrant implementation of Internet voting. One of the most interesting comments made during council’s discussion of the report was that adopting an Internet vote would allow people to vote in their pajamas. That comment really struck a chord with me; should we have a system that allows people to vote in pajamas? I don’t believe so. I see the electoral process as an act of civic engagement. Campaigning requires door knocking, telephone calls, flyer distribution, and more, all to get a conversation going with the people an elected official hopes to represent. That sense of community and responsibility unique to a geographical place cannot be replicated online.
Though city administration and the Citizen Jury advocated that online voting is progressive and would increase voter participation, I feel that the risks outweighed the gains. Other jurisdictions that have tried Internet-based voting saw only a marginal or no increase in turnout.
Additional security and oversight required for the online ballots also greatly increased costs, for little return. The concept of a ‘secret ballot’ is also more dubious because names, or at least IP addresses, are required.
The “Jellybean” election, which the city used as a pilot online vote, though tested by one security company, was not subject to the scrutiny and possible threat of manipulation a real election would encounter.
Fundamental to our democracy is the rule that one person equals one vote. As councillors, we did not feel that this could be suitably guaranteed. By providing identification of housemates or family members, one person could theoretically cast all the ballots for the household.
This did not sit right with us. Even though this would be considered voter fraud (which can also occur with paper balloting) it is far more difficult to detect.