Sunday, September 11, 2016

Electoral reform consultations discussing electronic voting in addition to online voting

I'm going to assume that this is just an unfortunate misunderstanding about terminology and mandate.

Online voting means voting over the Internet.  You cast your vote from your home computer or smartphone.

Electronic voting means voting on a voting machine (a voting computer) at a polling place.

Electronic vote counting means vote tabulators of various sorts, most commonly optical mark-sense readers that count votes by scanning marked paper ballots.

Recommendations for Consultation

0. Discontinue discussion of electronic voting

However, if discussion of electronic voting is going to continue:
  1. The mandate for the Electoral Reform committee should be amended, adding after the words "online voting" the following: ", and electronic voting.
    But it is probably too late to do that.
  2. There should be clear definitions of electronic voting and online voting in the Host a Canadian federal electoral reform dialogue in your community materials and those definitions should also be provided to the committee.
  3. The focus of the electoral reform dialogue should be placed on online voting to respect the original committee mandate.
  4. The Library of Parliament Background Paper 2016-06 on Electoral Systems should have a section on electronic voting added.
  5. The Electoral Reform committee online survey should have questions about electronic voting added, and the consequences of currently-completed surveys only having questions about online voting will have to be considered.
  6. In future, more care must be taken with terminology used and alignment between committee activities and consultation materials.

Recommendations for Individuals

If you're concerned about Canada using electronic voting machines or online voting in national elections, please participate in the consultation (deadline October 7, 2016) and make your opinion heard.


The terms of reference for the Special Committee on Electoral Reform very clearly say only online voting.  There is no mention of electronic voting.

Here's Vote 79

and Vote 80

That's the mandate discussed in Parliament.

The town hall material and discussion has proceeded to talk about electronic voting. Without an adequate backgrounder. Without even a definition. So we may get reporting back about some jumbled up mix of voting machines and online voting, while the committee itself has only discussed online voting.

And electronic voting is a VERY DIFFERENT DISCUSSION than just online voting, with very different considerations.

I will now have to write a separate briefing about electronic voting machine risks.

Anyway, here's some of the town hall materials in order to demonstrate that electronic voting is being discussed.

Potential Canadian federal electoral reform event dialogue topics and questions

So it is clear that the terminology electronic voting and online voting are not being used interchangeably, they are mentioned separately; this is not just confusing one term for the other.

Electronic voting and online voting both link to this text below about "introducing new technologies at the polls", which again has no Parliamentary mandate that I can see, other than a chain of assumptions about how using voting machines could lead to using online voting.  There is no definition of either electronic voting or online voting provided.

Changing Canada’s federal electoral system

In addition, the only thing that is even close to a briefing, the Library of Parliament Background Paper 2016-06-E on Electoral Systems, which is already weak on online voting, has no section about electronic voting at all (presumably because it's not in the committee mandate).

And the committee survey also doesn't ask any questions about electronic voting.

Some of the dialogue guidance even focuses on electronic voting alone, without mentioning online voting.

Sample Canadian federal electoral reform event agenda and facilitator guide

And there are at the time of this writing five variations of the Canadian Democracy tweet below, asking about electronic voting; I assume at least one tweet per town hall meeting.

"Electronic and Online voting?  Good idea? Bad idea? #EngagedinER" - @CdnDemocracy - 10:56 PM - 9 Sep 2016
So to sum up:

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