A blog to give a voice to our concern about the continued erosion of our democratic processes not only within the House of Commons and within our electoral system but also throughout our society. Here you will find articles about the current problems within our parliamentary democracy, about actions both good and bad by our elected representatives, about possible solutions, opinions and debate about the state of democracy in Canada, and about our roles/responsibilities as democratic citizens. We invite your thoughtful and polite comments upon our posts and ask those who wish to post longer articles or share ideas on this subject to submit them for inclusion as a guest post.
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Sunday, March 11, 2018

Electronic Voting Not an Option.... yet.

Following the panel discussion on voter engagement of young people at Ryerson University recently backbench Liberal MPP Arthur Potts proposes that the voting age should be lowered two years, to 16. Scotland and Argentina are among the places where teenagers are allowed to cast ballots at that age, a time when many are taking on other responsibilities such as getting behind the wheel of a car,. “They can drive. They can work,” “This proposal is not a stretch from where we are today.” he said.
“I think they’re quite capable of making a reasoned choice for a political party,” he added, noting two high schools in his riding already hold mock elections to mirror real-world elections. “I can’t imagine a downside.”
Its hard to substantially disagree with him given that most of our youth are much more “connected” than us older folks were at that age and that its much easier nowadays to keep abreast of the various 'platforms'. This is not to say that there will be youth who will have no clue about the choices presented or wont care, but then that is no less true of many 'adults' where the traditional low turnout say much about our collective apathy around voting.

It is gradually getting better with a 50% turnout in the last Ontario election and an unprecedented near 70% 2015 federal election, whilst much of the uptick may have to do with the choices put before us and the quality of said candidates the inclusion of more youth may liven things up a little. Our younger voters will be much more comfortable with online voting than some us 'old fogies' but even this 70+ fellow uses online banking so it should be that much of a stretch to include online voting as a alternative to paper balloting.
According to the 2011 Elections Canada Survey of Electors, a majority of non-voters (57 percent), primarily those with Internet access at home, said they would have voted had it been possible to do so over the Internet using the Elections Canada website. The proportion was 10 percentage points higher among 18-to-24-year-olds. Of interest, the likelihood of non-voters saying that they would have voted online was higher among users of Facebook and similar applications.
The Study sheds additional light on electors' attitudes about Internet voting. Just under half of electors (49.1 percent) agree, somewhat (31.5 percent) or strongly (17.6 percent), that "Canadians should have the option to vote over the Internet in federal elections". This compares to 39.4 percent who disagree. A majority of electors said they would be likely to vote over the Internet if they could do so but 50.3 percent of them think voting over the Internet is "risky" while only 29.7 percent think it is not. I suspect that these figures have changed considerably since 2011. 

Ontario has  e Registration, where you can confirm, update or add your information to the Voters List “in just a few easy steps”. I have not tried that yet so cant verify how 'easy' it is but I do hope it is an improvement over some of the previous efforts in that regard, you will not however be able to vote electronically in any provincial or federal election that I know of. 

Elections Canada has a long, and I do mean a loooong, discussion on the advantages and disadvantages of moving towards a modernised voting system that includes electronic voting but it looks to be far distant dream at this point. What follows is a few clips from that document which seems to me to be mostly about why we cannot adopt such a system.
First, proponents cite convenience and the principle of voting at any time as a primary advantage. Research of online voters in municipal elections in Canada confirms that convenience is the leading reason for using the voting method, with 66% of those surveyed in the 2014 Ontario municipal elections noting that is why they voted online
(Finally) claims of youth engagement are often made since presumably young people are more technically inclined than previous cohorts of electors and are avid users of the internet. Studies find, however, that young or first time voters are more likely to vote by paper than online
Overall benefits such as convenience, access, greater voter privacy and reduction in spoiled ballots are well established. Modest improvements in turnout are also documented in a Canadian context, albeit for municipal elections, as well as the attraction of some non-voters to the voting method.

Opposition to online voting, or hesitancy to pursue it, is based on several principal barriers., they include....
The digital divide refers to having access to an internet connection, the quality of that connection and digital skills and knowledge. If an elector does not have access to the internet, or a poor quality/ slow connection, it is argued they will be less likely to vote online. …...it remains an issue in some more rural places in Canada, notably in northern areas and Indigenous communities........
Ballot secrecy is one of the top barriers to online voting implementation ….....any voting or counting process that does not adhere to the principle of ballot secrecy “cannot be considered democratic”
Authentication is another barrier that must be sufficiently overcome to adopt online voting. It refers to the process of confirming voters are who they say they are. The Auditability of voting must be maintained with online voting (can the votes as recorded be confirmed to be correct).

A list of common security threats associated with online voting systems that are not present in traditional paper voting at the polls where ballots are counted by hand is shown in a table included in the article and summerised here....Vote Selling and Coercion , Phishing , Automation bias , Denial of Service , Client-side Malware/Spyware , Server penetrations , Insider Influence , State-level Actors

Overall technical barriers such as authentication, verification, ballot secrecy and auditability need to be managed based on available technology and contextual circumstances, threats to security present additional challenges. In practice, the two principles of being able to verify votes are cast as intended and tallied as cast take place in three phases or steps whereby voters can check that their ballot was cast an intended, recorded as cast and tallied as cast:
1.    Cast as intended – at the time of voting, voters are provided with evidence, often in the form or a receipt or code, that their encrypted ballot reflects their voting choice.
2.    Recorded as cast – voters can check that the encrypted ballot has been included correctly by seeing the encrypted code they cast on a public list, which shows the encrypted votes that have been cast.
3.    Tallied as recorded – “any member of the public can check that all the published encrypted votes are correctly included in the tally, without knowing how any individual voted”.

There is the potential to make our voting system much easier and to encourage greater participation via electronic voting however the recent rushed disaster in attempting to use such a system to select a new Ontario Conservative leader has not improved the chances of using such for provincial or federal voting anytime soon!

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