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.
Now the province’s defeated Progressive Conservatives are calling for every ballot to be counted by hand. Outgoing premier David Alward, who announced his resignation Tuesday, said the experience should be a warning about the perils of leaping too far, too fast into the future.
“Just because there’s technology doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s the best thing,” he told reporters Tuesday. “Technology in and of itself is not a guarantee.”
The vote-tabulating machines used in New Brunswick — the same ones that will be used across Ontario next month — scan paper ballots and keep a running tally of the results as they come in, explained company spokesman Gio Costantiello. The promised upside is that they provide definitive election outcomes within minutes rather than the usual hours-long wait.