The Future of Canada’s Elections: Is Internet Voting in the Cards?

by Jordan Richardson on August 18, 2011

Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand released a report on the May 2 election Wednesday, revealing the goods behind the process that gave Stephen Harper’s government a majority in Canada.

In the report, Mayrand revealed the “popularity of advance voting” as a key mover in getting considerable turnout. More germane to this blog’s subject matter, he talked about some improvements that could be made to Canada’s electoral process – most notably that of Internet voting and a lift of the ban of early election results.

The latter point is essentially a matter of control. To stifle the general media from reporting what many people have already been able to find out via social networking and the Internet seems outdated.

“The growing use of social media puts in question not only the practical enforceability of the rule, but also its very intelligibility and usefulness in a world where the distinction between private communication and public transmission is quickly eroding,” Mayrand says. “The time has come for Parliament to consider revoking the current rule.”

NDP democratic reform critic David Christopherson agrees with lifting the ban and with a pilot project from Elections Canada involving Internet voting. Calling it “clearly the way of the future,” Christopherson explained that Internet voting would improve turnout numbers. It could also conceivably save money and streamline the system in ways that could help generate more voter interest.

Of course, there’s always the security question to consider. With hacker attacks on the rise, surely putting wholesale faith in Internet voting would be a bit of a leap – at least for now.

With the next general election set for October of 2015, Elections Canada does have some time to tinker with some new ideas. Internet voting is presumed to be on the docket, with Maynard noting in his report that there was some interest in it as a “complementary and convenient way to cast a ballot.”

There’s no telling how this could play out in Canada’s telecommunications environment, but it should make for an interesting debate going forward as we try to establish technology’s role in a free and open democracy.

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Written by: Jordan Richardson. Follow by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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