Should voting be as easy as point and click? No, says a report from British Columbia published this week, which makes a compelling case against Internet voting – at least any time soon. Voter turnout has been declining for decades. There’s a widespread worry that citizens in Western democracies are starting to exercise their electoral franchise later in life, and many never acquire the habit at all. Such disengagement is unsettling. Some blame an outdated voting system. Where’s my “Vote Now” app? But a panel headed by B.C.’s Chief Electoral Officer, Keith Archer, found no correlation between voter participation and online voting, in jurisdictions where that option is available. More and easier ways to vote do not necessarily equal more votes. And, surprisingly, older people are more likely than the young to use the Internet to vote.
With Internet voting, there’s also the danger of fraud or error on a scale large enough to yield misleading outcomes: a false plurality or majority. And compared with physical ballots, the results are more difficult to verify.
The panel proposed that online voting in B.C. should be available only to people with “specific accessibility challenges” that make it difficult to get to a polling station.
As the technology now stands, the traditional pencil and a piece of paper – the ballot – remain the most advanced, efficient and trustworthy voting system.