Thursday, August 18, 2011

Elections Canada on Internet voting

Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand recently published his report on the 41st General Election, held earlier this year. It includes one reference to Internet voting:
Elections Canada has been examining Internet voting as a complementary and convenient way to cast a ballot. The Chief Electoral Officer is committed to seeking approval for a test of Internet voting in a by-election held after 2013.
The CBC headlined their article on the report with it: Elections Canada lobbies for test of online voting. Clearly the topic has gone mainstream. Overall, I see reasons for optimism: first, note that the press is making the distinction between electronic voting and online voting; an old lament of mine. Second, they've highlighted the proper implementation of the secret ballot as one of the concerns about voting online. And, finally, Elections Canada isn't racing ahead on this -- note that the statement I quoted doesn't include a deadline. They are also eliciting informed opinions, and remaining far more technology agnostic than most folks would expect them to be, I would imagine:
Strategic initiatives
Our key strategies to support [the Accessibility] objective in the next five years are to:
... with the prior approval of Parliament, test a secure voting process during a by-election that allows electors to vote by telephone or Internet
Strategic Plan 2008-2013 (the emphasis is mine)

It isn't perfect, of course: that workshop made but one reference to the risk of coerced voting, as far as I could tell. Also, the public discourse -- well, such as it is in comments on press articles, and the questions raised at that workshop -- hasn't adequately quashed that old argument celebrating online banking (and tax filing, I've seen recently) as proof that the nut of Internet security has been cracked. As I've stated previously, that argument is based on a false premise. Still, I'm hopeful that these trials to come will be well run, their results thoroughly examined, before any Internet facilitated process d├ębuts in an election on our national stage.

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