Vancouver city council to vote on proposal to allow online voting during 2011 civic election

City council will vote this week on a proposal to allow Vancouver residents to cast their ballots online during the next municipal election.

A staff report set to go before council Tuesday (May 3) recommends that council pursue an online voting pilot project during the advance voting period of the November 2011 election.

If approved by council, the project would require sign-off from the B.C. Minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development.

Janice MacKenzie, the chief election officer for the City of Vancouver, said staff recommended that council pursue a pilot project given the benefits of online voting cited by other municipalities.

Benefits cited in the staff report include increased accessibility and a positive impact on voter turnout. Risks identified include difficulty verifying voter identification, and hacks or viruses attacking the system and impacting the results.

“A number of municipalities elsewhere in the country have used online voting and one of the common things that they have found is that there’s increase in access,” MacKenzie told the Straight by phone.

“What other municipalities have experienced and what the studies have shown is that it does have a positive impact on voter turnout,” she added.

The staff report indicates that if council approves the motion, a new bylaw would need to be drafted, and approved by the B.C.government, to allow online voting in the city.

“Once we have council approval saying that ok they agree with online voting, then the next step for us is to put together a bylaw and talk to the province about that,” said MacKenzie.

While Vancouver would be the first municipality in the province to allow voters to cast ballots online, other Canadian municipalities have used Internet voting in their general elections, including over 40 cities in Ontario.

On January 20, city councillors approved a motion directing staff to report back on the feasibility of conducting online voting in the 2011 municipal election.

The City of Coquitlam approved a motion in February requesting that the provincial government look into the possibility of using online voting in the 2014 municipal elections.

You can follow Yolande Cole on Twitter at twitter.com/yolandecole.

Comments