Online voting in BC: Good or bad idea?

Online voting: Yes or No?

BC’s Attorney General Shirley Bond asked this week Chief Electoral Officer of BC to appoint independent panel to examine the logistics of internet voting on the future municipal and provincial elections as part of the effort to engage more voters into the democratic process of election.

“Our province is widely recognized as being technologically progressive and a leader in open government initiatives. If the independent panel determines we can maintain the utmost electoral integrity, I’m optimistic Internet voting could increase accessibility for British Columbians to participate in the democratic process”, said Bond in her letter to CEO Archer.

Bond’s initiative is nothing new and it was expected bas on the turnout on last provincial elections in the 2009 but also based on low turnout on last municipal elections in November of 2011.

Only 51 per cent of eligible voters in British Columbia cast ballots in the 2009 provincial elections, and for example in Surrey which is one of the most fastest growing municipalities in the country turnout in the 2011 municipal elections was just 25 per cent. Several Canadian municipalities already embraced online voting and results are pretty satisfying, while some of them didn’t record any increase in voting percentage they didn’t record any decrease over the last few electoral terms. Supporters of online voting or e-voting  are pretty sure that this development of electoral process would bring more people on the board to vote based on elements on convenience, time, accessibility and above everything costs.  On the other side opponents are stating elements of security, unreliability and infrastructure needed for its implementation. 

Let’s be clear there’s no clear point in this discussion and both sides could be right or wrong in their stands regarding online voting, but let’s discuss some of the elements presented by both sides.

I can totally agree with supporters that online voting will increase voting especially now when majority of our day-to-day live is conducted online. Anywhere from banking, shopping, health care, essential everyday communication or just keeping in touch with family members of friends all over the world elements of our lives are done in matter of seconds online. If we could vote online that means that you could sit in your favourite chair and click that famous “X” beside the name of your choice for provincial or municipal government and then continue with your life without any delays. Big point in favour of online voting is accessibility not only for those who’re physically unable to come and vote on polling stations, but also for those who’re unable to reach polling stations due to severe weather which can be really bad in some areas of BC in winter or summer times (snow or flooding).

(Photo: Flickr)

Also voters who’re traveling during election times would be able to exercise their constitutional rights from across the world and influence their future upon return to place of living. Dozens of millions of dollars would and should stay in provincial and municipal budgets if BC introduces online voting, costs for printing, workers, observers, accommodations, security and transportation would be cut significantly.

Significant element in favour of online voting will sit at the side of social media generations. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or Pinterest are some of the irreplaceable parts of our everyday life, and they don’t only apply to those generations who just passed age of 18 but but also on everybody up to 100 years-of-age who embrace modern technologies. What we learned over the last few years is that elections are won based on the influence of social media, than why not to conduct that voting process online and combine it with that interest which is highly expressed on social media?

Lindsay Smith, technology expert

Speaking recently about possibility of online voting introduction and significance of it for younger generations technology expert Lindsay Smith (CEO of Massive Media) said:

“I think that younger generation as well would automatically start to adopt and those are often ones who’re not getting out to the voting stations in the first place”.

Recently I had a chance to discuss online voting issues with several local politicians and what I learned is that those who already embrace social media as one of the irreplaceable elements of their lives are pro-online, while those who still prefer old ways of communication and touch with voters are pro-current system. Those in favour of online voting said that through it power would be delivered to the hands of voters and take away from influential groups who’re delivering votes today. They also think that online voting would open more space for election of those who’re visible in community or those who’re focused on specific community needs and interests.

After all online voting and social media communication with voters would never replace old good campaign tactics such as door knocking, big gatherings, campaign BBQ’s or all-candidate debates, and above all will not replace for ever paper ballots because that’s almost impossible at the moment. Personal touch and face-to-face discussion will always play the highest role in political business so opponents should think more about evaluation of the process to bring more people on the board in effort to achieve their ideas and programmes during upcoming terms.

Opposition to online voting is very vocal when it comes to security of the online option, those are evoking NDP National Convention problems and the fact that their online voting system was hacked what delayed final vote for more than six hours. In their opinion as it was said by federal minister Tim Uppal (CPC) online voting will be part of our electoral system sometimes in the future, but that future is not yet here. NDP problems are also stated as the unreliability element of the voting online, and I must to agree that hacking, possible power outages or system errors could delay voting process even postpone it for a longer periods of time. These problems could be avoided through proper planning, execution and construction of the system by governmental bodies, and I’m pretty sure that panel which will be appointed by Elections BC will thoroughly examine all options and ideas.

“Obviously  if the government is doing a job thoroughly testing the platform and using security experts in order to build that platform they should be able to create a system that is safe for everyone. We started buying online and shopping online and doing our banking online, those same fears existed from consumers and society overall so I think that people will overtime once they see that system is build well and that they can trust they’ll all start to adopt that”, said Smith about these concerns.

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