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E-voting gets almost unanimous praise, study finds

E-voting gets almost unanimous praise, study finds

By:  Rafael Ruffolo  On: 26 Sep 2011 For: ComputerWorld Canada Creator

A new report from Delvinia examines exit interviews from online voters in Markham, Ont. Plus, find out about the biggest area of concern for the town’s early experiences using online balloting

New data culled from Markham, Ont. voters could make a case for the introduction of Internet voting across all levels of government in Canada, according to a new report from user experience design firm Delvinia

The Toronto-based digital consultancy released the findings of its eDemocracy and Citizen Engagement report on Monday, which focused on the Town of Markham’s recent online voting initiatives. The municipality has offered online voting for its local elections since 2003.

The report, which surveyed online voters after they cast ballots in last year’s municipal elections, indicated that 99 per cent of online voters in Markham were satisfied with the voting process and would likely vote online in future municipal elections. The same amount of survey respondents also indicated they would prefer an online voting option for future provincial and federal elections.

“The significance of Markham’s decision to implement Internet voting is more than increasing voter turnout and accessibility, but also about paving the way for other governments to follow,” said Delvinia CEO Adam Froman.

Nicole Goodman, a PhD candidate at Carleton University who is researching Internet voting across the country, said that since the Town of Markham introduced online voting, more than 50 cities across Canada have followed suit.

“It’s reached about 1.8 million electors,” she said.

When it came to voter demographics, electors aged 45 to 54 were deemed the most likely group to make use of online voting, with the majority of users citing little concern for the safety of personal information and the impact of technology on their privacy.

But the study also found that online voting could help get the highly sought after youth vote out, as 40 per cent of young respondents (aged 18 to 24) that self-identify themselves as occasional or non-voters, were encouraged to vote because of the online ballot.

Users were also more likely to be non-immigrants with English as their first language.

In addition to exit survey data, Delvinia also polled candidates in Markham to get their feedback on the online voting process. The firm found that 92 per cent of candidates were either “completely” or “mostly” in favour of online voting, with 78 per cent reporting that the Internet voting option had a significant impact on campaign strategies and mobilization tactics.

For candidates, Goodman said, key political messages have to be established earlier on in the campaign cycle to account for the early voting.

Andrew Brouwer, deputy clerk at the Town of Markham, said that other municipalities looking to implement online voting should review the risks and security concerns as earlier as possible. This includes an extensive project plan that compares the voting platforms that are available from a variety of technology providers currently specializing in e-voting software.

“Understand the risk profile and move forward that way,” he said.

Froman said that one of the biggest technical issues for the Town of Markham was keeping the voters list updated prior to Election Day.

“What you didn’t want to happen was somebody to vote online and then vote again at the polls,” he said.

To solve this, the municipality limited online ballot casting to the early voting period, which gave city staff 24 to 48 hours to update their master lists.

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Rafael Ruffolo Rafael Ruffolo was a senior writer for ComputerWorld Canada from 2006 to 2011. He was the winner of a Kenneth R. Wilson award for business journalism in 2009.

Comments (3)

Luke Kandia
by 10/3/2011 10:45:18 AM

I have to agree with the gentleman LZ Granderson who writes for CNN. "Uninformed" voters are the reason we are in the current mess around the world.

Educate the masses, before unleashing this sort of technology on them. Let them know that the possibities for fraud and breach of trust are way too easy and the risks far outweigh the potential benefits. One simply has to look to the USA to see that voting online or electronic balloting is far too dangerous to ever implement. In any democracy. Long live putting "pencil to paper."

I propose one extra step in the current process. Signing your name to the voter's slip. Plus taking home a "receipt" of voting the way you did. A way of implementing a perfect "check and balance" in the voting procedure.

Not a big leap in logic here, since they're already monitoring how "we" vote whenever we vote electronically.

Tech Sabot
by 10/3/2011 12:47:43 PM

"Dead" people vote on paper all the time in corrupt regimes. I am also sick of hearing the argument that the "masses" are too stupid or ignorant to be trusted to vote. That is Star Chamber thinking and the first step toward the slippery slope of dictatorship. BTW every dictator thinks (s)he is benevolent ("It's for their own good"). Practical and effective electronic auditing is available. If you could not trust that this is so, when would you ever buy anything online? There is far more to gain by stealing credit cards than votes. Politicians are too hard to control and themselves have much less control over their circumstances than most people imagine: HST for example.

by 10/4/2011 10:00:22 AM

The only problem with e-voting is that it is non-verifiable and not open to challenge. There is no physical evidence of the vote and can not be shown to be free of fraud. Ontario uses paper ballots and scanning with results readily available within hours of polls closing. The ballots are maintained in case the count is ever questioned. E-voting has no such safeguards. If someone should ever 'stuff' the e-voting box, what would be the re-course? We would have to trust IT types to sort it out - really?

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