Network Security

Broader online voting proposed in Canada

In his report to Parliament on the 2011 general election, Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand wrote: “[We] have reached a point where the limited flexibility of the current legislation no longer allows us to meet the evolving needs of electors and candidates. We look forward to working with parliamentarians as we prepare for the [October 2015] general election.”

While Mayrand has the mandate to conduct tests on alternative voting methods – and has committed to seeking approval for a trial of internet voting in a by-election in 2014 or later – full-fledged online voting would require significant changes to the Canada Elections Act. The security of the vote would be of primary concern.

Those who have followed this issue will note a subtle change in wording in Mayrand's plans. While before, he was committed only to what was termed “e-voting” – electronic voting conducted in a relatively traditional polling place – his report to Parliament makes it clear that he is considering a recommendation of something broader.

“Elections Canada [the federal agency Mayrand heads] has been examining internet voting as a complementary and convenient way to cast a ballot.”

Driving Mayrand's recommendations are the dual realities of stagnant voter turnout – 61.1 percent for the 2011 vote, including dismal participation by young Canadians – and ever-increasing costs. The May 12 election cost Canadian taxpayers CDN$291 million, or about CDN$12 per voter.

Once Parliament reconvenes this fall, Mayrand will appear before a committee to discuss his conclusions and recommendations in greater detail.

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