B.C. not ready for Internet voting, independent panel says
British Columbians hoping to vote online in upcoming elections may be disappointed by the early findings of a panel of experts convened by Elections B.C.
The Independent Panel on Internet Voting, formed at the request of the B.C. government, released today (October 23) a preliminary report that says it is "not feasible" for online balloting to be used in the 2014 civic elections.
Furthermore, the five-member panel, chaired by chief electoral officer Keith Archer, is recommending that the province do not introduce universal Internet voting for both provincial and civic elections at this time.
"However, if Internet voting is implemented, its availability should be limited to those with specific accessibility challenges," the panel's report states. "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."
According to the panel, B.C. should take a "province-wide coordinated approach" to online voting, and a technical committee should be formed to evaluate such systems and help governments that choose to implement Internet balloting.
"The panel concludes that Internet voting has the potential to provide some benefits for administering local government elections and provincial elections in British Columbia and that the most significant potential benefit of Internet voting is increased accessibility and convenience for B.C. voters. Other presumed benefits, such as increased turnout and lower cost are not typically realized," the report says.
"The panel also concludes that Internet voting has some significant inherent risks. It is important to understand that although the Internet is used for an increasing number of interactions (such as banking, shopping, dating, planning trips, and the like) with their own risks, voting over the Internet has a set of unique challenges that inevitably introduce a number of additional risks. The extent to which each of these risks can be mitigated or eliminated also depends on the details of the way in which an Internet voting model is implemented. Security at the voter’s device, reduced transparency and auditability compared to traditional voting methods, and cost were seen by the panel to be the most significant challenges to implementing Internet voting for either local government or provincial government elections."
In its report, the panel also notes that, though many governments have looked at online voting, it is "still not widely implemented".
The public is being asked to submit feedback on the report via the panel's website by December 4. The panel expects to send its final report to the legislative assembly in early 2014.
In 2011, the City of Vancouver asked the province for approval to use Internet voting in that year's municipal election, but the city's request was denied.