Preliminary Report on Internet Voting Released

The Independent Panel on Internet Voting has issued a preliminary report recommending to not implement universal Internet voting for either local or provincial government elections at this time. The Panel is inviting public comment on the preliminary report until December 4, 2013.

UBCM members first supported a move to Internet voting in 2000. In 2011, the membership endorsed resolution A2 that requested the Province “initiate the policy analysis and legislative changes required to implement online voting for the 2014 local government election.”

The Independent Panel, chaired by Elections BC's Chief Electoral Officer Keith Archer, was established in August 2012 by the Minister of Justice to review best practices with respect to internet voting in other jurisdictions and to examine the issues associated with implementing internet voting in BC. The Panel was asked to specifically look at Internet voting in both local and provincial contexts. Joining Mr. Archer on the Panel are two university academics, former two-term Auditor General George Morfitt and from local government, Lee-Ann Crane, East Kootenay RD CAO and long-serving LGMA board member.

While the Panel did not recommend universal application of Internet voting it did state that “if Internet voting is implemented its availability should be limited to those with specific accessibility challenges. If Internet voting is implemented on a limited basis, jurisdictions need to recognize that the risks to the accuracy of the voting results remain substantial.” The three other recommendations of the Panel were to take a province-wide coordinated approach to Internet voting; establish a technical committee to evaluate internet voting systems and support jurisdictions that wish to implement approved systems; and to evaluate any internet voting system against the principles established by the Panel (i.e. accessibility, ballot anonymity, one vote per voter, voter authentication and authorization, etc.)

The Panel concluded that the most significant benefit of Internet voting is increased access and convenience, but their research was not conclusive that Internet voting would lead to increased voter turnout and lower costs. The Panel also concluded that there were significant risks such as reduced transparency, security at the voter's device and auditability.

The report is open for public comment until December 4, 2013. Feedback will be incorporated in the Panel's final report that will be submitted to the Legislative Assembly in early 2014.

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