Would You Vote Online? Canada Mulls Initiative

Dennis Faas's picture

A lot of people are comfortable using their credit card online to purchase items -- but would they feel comfortable voting via the world wide web?

Right now, Elections Canada is mulling over that very idea, and may implement an online voting system within the next two years. According to Canada's chief electoral officer, Marc Mayrand, testing for an Internet voting platform could be ready for the federal by-election in 2013.

In a report filed earlier this summer, Mayrand noted that Canadians have demonstrated a desire to make the voting process easier. And let's face it, voting in one's underwear in the comfort of their own home is pretty darn convenient. (Source: cbc.ca)

Voter Turnout Likely to Increase

The benefit of such a system is obvious: more people are likely to vote. Already Canada has relatively strong voter turnout -- 62 per cent in the last federal election, an increase from 2008 -- but that is considerably lower than voter turnout levels in the 1990s (when upwards of 70 per cent of Canadians cast a vote).

According to Mayrand, Canadians currently "live in a world replete with electronic services and increasingly expect a range of options that provide them with more flexibility and accommodate their busy schedules... Three factors stop electors from voting: apathy, inconvenience and administrative barriers. Apathy is a societal issue largely beyond Elections Canada's control." (Source: ctv.ca)

Impact on Politics Could be Dramatic

If passed, an online voting system could have a dramatic impact on the nature of both elections and politics north of the border.

Generally speaking, older voters tend to visit the polls in larger numbers. Thus, critics suggest the expansion of the voting system to the web should see to an uptick in voting by young people. That will almost undoubtedly change the way politicians plan their election campaigns and how they target the media.

Of course, the major threat with this kind of a system is security. It's considerably easier to monitor a system when people have to show up in person in order to vote. The cost of implementing a sufficiently resilient security platform to repel online attacks or tainted data might just be enough to scare away supporters of such a system.

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