It might seem automatic to include online voting in municipal elections at this point in history, but a report from Elections Ontario has some city councillors re-thinking that stance. Ironically, city councillors will be using the old-school method of raising their hands in a vote next week to decide the future fate of Internet voting in Timmins. The matter was deferred last week after council requested a review of the Elections Ontario report about municipalities adopting Internet voting. “Although the report is detailed, it doesn’t go into a lot of specifics,” said city clerk Steph Palmateer on Monday. “Many communities have been using online voting, some have decided not continue, but it doesn’t explain why. Interestingly enough, all the electoral districts that use online voting, there’s only been one report of a security breach, and that’s a pilot project in the United States.” However, that single reported breach of security was enough for Coun. Todd Lever to question if the security of local elections would be compromised. During the project, students and professors in Maryland were asked to try to hack the system during a fake election. “I don’t want to be alarmist, but what stood out to me in the report is, in 2010, in Washington D.C. … online voting was compromised by a group of students and professors,” said Lever. “Within 48 hours of system going live, they gained complete control of the election server.” Officials did not detect the breach for nearly two business days.
“I support the concept of online voting, because it makes it easier for people to vote,” said Lever. “But it makes me wonder whether the technology is there or not.”
Palmateer said the report didn’t go into specifics about online systems, but suggested there’s the same small chance an election could be tampered with both online or at the ballot box. He said the companies that run online voting systems depend on using the most up-to-date and reliable security available.
Other councillors also had issue with the lack of proof that online voting would increase voter turn-out.
Mayor Tom Laughren added that the $65,000 cost wasn’t only being spent to acquire server and network capabilities for online voting. The switch-over and cost also includes new vote tabulation machines, which Laughren said the city badly needs either way.
Palmateer said increasing voter turn-out would be a nice side-effect, but that it wasn’t necessarily the goal.
“I agree, online voting will not automatically increase voter turnout, but I believe it’s another form for voters to use,” said Palmateer. “It’s an opportunity to engage younger voters who aren’t voting. It’s a way for councillors more active in social media to encourage people to vote.”
Full Article: Security a concern for online voting | Timmins Press.