At the best of times U.S. elections are heated, and these aren’t necessarily the best of times. We’ve already seen the discovery of data breaches at the Democratic party and candidate Hillary Clinton. This week one technology writer warned that the November U.S. presidential election “can be rigged and sabotaged, and we might never even know it happened.” He was referring to the use in 10 U.S. states of touch screen voting machines that don’t have paper backups, which some experts worry are vulnerable to malware.Even if cyber attackers do nothing more than play with electronic voter registration systems it could cause backups at voting stations, causing voters to leave and potentially affecting outcomes. For these and other reasons Canadian electoral officials are still cautious about adopting electronic voting here. Some municipalities are using machine-readable paper voting systems, but touch screen or online voting in federal and provincial elections is still taboo. “I have no plans to introduce online voting for 2019,” Marc Mayrand, Canada’s chief electoral officer told Parliament’s special committee on electoral reform in July. “I think there’s still a lot of research to be done, and there are many considerations. That’s what I would like to see the committee doing in its work, addressing some of the key considerations and giving us some direction on where we should go and how should we proceed to explore and test online voting at some point.
“We have to be careful. We also need to look at security. We want to preserve certain characteristics of the vote: confidentiality, secrecy, reliability, and integrity. When we start looking at moving online, I would point out the big difference currently in our system compared to any other services you get online: the risk of online services currently is the provider’s. If you go online at a bank, you use your MasterCard, and somebody misuses it or accesses your account, the provider will cover that. That’s one aspect that does not exist in the voting process.
… The U.S. experience with electronic voting notwithstanding, Canadian officials have been cautious because of experiences on this side of the border. For example, after Ontario allowed online voting for municipal elections in 2010 several communities reported problems. In one town voting had to be extended for 24 hours, while in another a server crashed because of the heavy turnout.