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Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Online voting section of Background Paper 2016-06-E on Electoral Systems

There is a Library of Parliament Background Paper - 2016-06-E - Electoral Systems and Electoral Reform in Canada and Elsewhere: An Overview  that gives a good sense of the material the Special Committee on Electoral Reform will cover.  Which is to say, a huge amount on electoral systems, and one small section (6.2) with four short paragraphs about online voting.  Most cited is Canada's Nichole Goodman.  Dr. Goodman's degree is in Political Science and Government; she is a social scientist, not a technology expert.  There is no direct citation of computer scientists or computer security experts in the background paper.  There is a false balance statement at the end, as if there should be equal weight on the (unsupported by evidence) increase in turnout and the (repeatedly supported by expert investigation) security concerns.

The background paper is by Andre Barnes, Dara Lithwick, & Erin Virgint.  Lithwick and Virgint are the Library of Parliament analysts assigned to the Special Committee on Electoral Reform.

I would have hoped to see citation of at least one of the reports I link to in my post about Internet voting risks, in particular the Parliament of Australia inquiry (which is excellent) would have been a natural fit.

I very much hope that the committee will hear from a representative sample of academic experts on Internet voting with a particular emphasis on computer security.  Internet voting is not a matter than can be properly analysed purely from a social science perspective.  I encourage you to put forward names of computer science professors with expertise in this area as potential witnesses.

A much better view on online voting, long and extensively-researched, for a non-technical audience, is available in Online voting is a cybersecurity nightmare by Eric Geller.  I will also update this post to cite more academic papers.

Below is the online voting section from the Background Paper, which will be read by all of the committee members.

 6.2 Online Voting

As society’s use of the Internet has become commonplace, consideration continues to be given to the possibility of enabling Canadians to vote online. In Canada, Internet voting has been employed at the municipal or regional level, namely in Markham and Peterborough, Ontario, and in Halifax and Truro and in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia.59

A number of jurisdictions internationally, at various levels of government, have studied or implemented online voting systems. For example, Estonia has offered online voting at the national level in some form since 2005.60

Research conducted for Elections Canada found that “a moderate proportion of electors would be likely to vote over the Internet, and that this proportion is increasing from one general election to the next.” 61 Elections Canada’s research also examined the required legal framework to establish online voting,62 as well as consultations with European jurisdictions about their experience with online voting.63

Those in favour of online voting suggest that it may expand the accessibility of elections and, in turn, increase voter turnout. Those against Internet voting cite reliability and security concerns.

  1. See, for example, Jon H. Pammett and Nicole Goodman, Consultation and Evaluation Practices in the Implementation of Internet Voting in Canada and Europe  (886 kB, 63 pages), Research study prepared for Elections Canada, November 2013, pp. 25-35;Canada-Europe Transatlantic Dialogue,A Comparative Assessment of Electronic Voting  (324 kB, 64 pages), Report prepared for Elections Canada, February 2010, pp. 23-32; and Leslie MacKinnon, “Elections Canada drops plan for online voting due to cuts,” CBC News, 1 May 2013.
  2. R. Michael Alvarez, Thad E. Hall and Alexander H. Trechsel, “Internet Voting in Comparative Perspective: The Case of Estonia  (205 kB, 9 pages),” PS: Political Science and Politics, Vol. 42, July 2009.
  3. Pascal Barrette, “Conclusion,” Interest of Canadians in Internet Voting (2004, 2006, 2008 and 2011) - Research Note, Elections Canada, February 2013.
  4. Bryan Schwartz and Dan Grice, “Executive Summary,” Establishing a Legal Framework for E-voting in Canada, Report prepared for Elections Canada, September 2013.
  5. Jon H. Pammett and Nicole Goodman, Consultation and Evaluation Practices in the Implementation of Internet Voting in Canada and Europe, Report prepared for Elections Canada, November 2013. [this is just an ibid. of 59 above]

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