Estonians can vote over the internet in their national elections. Brazilians vote using electronic terminals that have Braille on the keypads and that have cut the tabulation time from a month to six hours. Some local British elections have let people vote by text message. It’s the year 2015, after all. So why do Canadian elections still happen the centuries-old way — by marking paper ballots and depositing them in a box? Especially when advocates say higher-tech voting methods could make the process more accessible? “There’s a number of reasons,” said Nicole Goodman, research director at the Centre for E-Democracy and an assistant professor at the University of Toronto’s global-affairs school. Goodman has extensively researched internet voting at other levels of government in Canada, particularly municipal elections in Ontario, where in last year’s contests 97 local governments out of 414 offered online voting. At the municipal level, Canada is a world leader in voting via the internet, Goodman says. But so far, no province or federal electoral authority has attempted it even in a small trial. One reason? “Lack of political will,” Goodman said. Elections Canada, by law, has to takes its cues on how to run elections from Parliament, and no recent government has made it a priority to introduce potentially radical new voting methods — especially one such as internet balloting that might get whole new demographics, including traditionally non-voting youth, to suddenly take part. Another concern that has held back any internet voting system is security. “People want 100 per cent assurance that this cannot be tampered with,” said Jean-Pierre Kingsley, Canada’s former chief electoral officer. “I’m absolutely sure that we’ll be able to find something, but at this stage we’re not there yet.”
Decades of work to remove the influence of big money from Canadian federal political campaigns is going down the drain with the advent of political action committees, a former chief electoral officer says. Jean-Pierre Kingsley says Canada is headed down the road well trodden in the United States, where political action committees, or PACs, raise and spend staggering amounts of money to influence elections, without the same restrictions that apply to political parties. In Canada, such groups have been known as third parties and their activities are severely restricted during campaigns.
A computer glitch that marred Monday’s New Brunswick election has raised concerns about the perils of electronic voting, just as many Ontario municipalities are preparing to use the newest ballot-box technologies in next month’s elections. At least two dozen Ontario towns and cities — including Halton, Burlington, Oshawa and Markham — have signed service contracts with Toronto-based Dominion Voting Systems Corporation to let residents use Internet, telephone and vote-counting technologies when they vote for mayor, councillors, school board members and other elected officials on Oct. 27. The company, which counts former chief electoral officer Jean-Pierre Kingsley as chair of its advisory board, was employed to bring New Brunswick’s election agency into the 21st century through the use of vote-tabulation machines. Instead, the firm ended up taking blame for one of the most disputed Canadian elections in recent memory.
As criticism of the Conservatives’ electoral reform bill continues to mount, Democratic Reform Minister Pierre Poilievre launched an attack on Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand.
Poilievre said Tuesday that Mayrand, the independent head of Elections Canada appointed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, is criticizing the so-called Fair Elections Act out of a desire for more power. “The reality is that regardless of amendments and improvements that the bill potentially will have included, the CEO will not ultimately approve it,” Poilievre said.
“(Mayrand’s) recommendations really boil down to three broad requirements for him: he wants more power, a bigger budget, and less accountability.” Poilievre also accused Mayrand of “grasping at straws” and making “astounding” claims about Bill C-23 in an attempt to scuttle the legislation. Poilievre was asked to take back his comments in the House of Commons Tuesday. He declined, saying he stood by his testimony.
A change proposed by the Conservatives in their new election bill would “directly affect” some Canadians’ right to vote, former chief electoral officer Jean-Pierre Kingsley said Tuesday. Abolishing the process of vouching, which serves as proof of a voter’s identification, “will impact very negatively on the values of participation, impartiality and transparency,” Kingsley told a committee of MPs. “This will directly affect the constitutional right to vote of a significant number of Canadians without justification.” “Please. Please do not get rid of it,” he said.