Sunday, September 18, 2016

Electoral Reform in Canada and information about Electronic Voting and Online Voting

First I want to make it clear that I understand the public servants preparing these materials are working on a tight deadline, with a lot of information to prepare in a short period of time.  I sympathise with the challenges they face.

I believe in evidence-based decisionmaking.  Here is the fundamental problem about the current consultations (parallel Ministerial and Committee consultations) about electoral reform: they are both asking about electronic voting and online voting with no evidence provided whatsoever.  No learning materials on electronic and online voting, no backgrounder, not even any definitions.

We don't even have the very basics to agree on what it is that we're discussing, let alone to have an informed discussion.

Here's the process one is supposed to follow:

1. Go to Canada.ca/Democracy
2. Click on Learn

3. Click on "Electronic Voting and Online Voting"

Except you can't.  Because there is no section on electronic voting and online voting.  Here are the sections:

You can click all you want on any of the eleven sections provided, and out of all eleven, you will find literally a single sentence (maybe) relating to electronic voting, in Changing Canada's federal electoral system - How you vote.

Where is the evidence for the statement that introducing new technologies could pave the way for online voting?  Does "introducing new technologies at the polls" mean electronic voting machines?  What does it mean? Where is the mandate for this approach to gradually transition to online voting via electronic voting?  Where is the discussion and debate about this approach?  Well there is no evidence, no definition, no mandate and no discussion.  It just appeared out of nowhere.

Maybe we can look at the Glossary of Canadian electoral reform terms?  Well no. 
It has no definition for electronic voting

and no definition for online voting

The only other information available would involve reading the Electoral systems factsheet and for some reason clicking the Library of Parliament backgrounder, and then, having landed on a bunch of text, for some reason scrolling down page after page until you reach section 6.2 Online Voting.  Which, even if by some extraordinary degree of interest you manage to reach it, is a wildly inadequate background on online voting anyway.  There is no amount of clicking and scrolling that will get you to a backgrounder on electronic voting, for there is none.

It's worth noting in addition that the committee doesn't actually have electronic voting in its mandate, although that doesn't seem to make any difference in the fact that we're proceeding to discuss electronic voting anyway.

To Sum Up

As evidence-based decisionmaking goes, this is not a model process.

What You Can Do

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.

What I Did

To address the lack if information, I have written a briefing note on online voting.

I will write a briefing note on electronic voting as well, but in the meantime, you can watch Zachary Quinto explain how US electronic voting machines can be hacked, and then watch Tom Scott talk about why electronic voting is a bad idea.

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