Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Toronto Star - July 12, 2004
A major article on the Canadian electronic voting situation, which covers the issue very well.
Is the future in line or online?

It took just one click. No paper ballots were used during last year's municipal and school board elections in 12 area municipalities of Eastern Ontario, in the counties of Prescott-Russell and Stormont Dundas and Glengarry. Instead, close to 100,000 voters were registered to vote either by telephone or to vote online, using the services of CanVote Inc., a company based in L'Orignal, Ont.


Although most electronic voting advocates would like to see paper ballot voting as a thing of the past, there's a fair amount of debate over the subject.

The recent federal election was conducted the old-fashioned way: Voters drove up to polling stations and marked an X on a paper ballot. The ballots were counted and, before the end of the night, a Liberal minority was declared.

But electronic voting advocates say the voting process will soon catch up with technology.


However, those opposed to electronic voting argue that voting cannot be compared with other gains made on the online scene, such as Internet banking. It's too important a civic duty, an entirely private and anonymous process, which stands to be compromised by technological innovations, they say.


[CanVote company president Joe Church says] "The issue of recount just doesn't exist. In paper ballots, judgment calls have to be made when someone initials a ballot or marks it sloppily. But in online voting, you can't physically click more than allotted choices. You're asked to confirm your choice."

In Canada, election bodies such as Elections Canada have yet to give the go-ahead to electronic voting. A study commissioned by the agency in 1998 posits its stance on the issue, says spokesperson Hal Doran.

According to the study, "electronic voting is a next natural step in the introduction and application of new technologies to the electoral process." But, "for the foreseeable future, the act of voting will continue to be carried out by hand, at a polling station in a school or church hall, in a manner that is easily recognizable."


"The way we operate right now isn't perfect, but at least we knew about the (hanging chad) and we could haggle over what happened because we could see the ballots," says [Bob McDermott, associate professor of political science at York University]. "It was open and accountable. But online voting isn't open to our scrutiny. Do we take this private company's word that there was no vote tampering?

"And if you really want (to increase voter turnout), you want young voters to participate, make policies that will appeal to them. Give them a reason to vote."
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