Electronic voting in Canada

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Federal elections and provincial elections use paper ballots, but electronic voting has been used since at least the 1990s at the municipal level. Committee reports and analysis from Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia have all recommended against provincial Internet voting. A federal committee has recommended against national Internet voting.

Some municipalities in Ontario and Nova Scotia provide Internet voting.

There are no Canadian electronic voting standards.

Federal[edit]

There is no electronic or online voting in Canadian federal elections.

For national elections, there is a uniform set of standards for voting. This governing law is the Canada Elections Act.

The Act is c. 9, assented to (made law) 31 May 2000. It has been amended several times since 2000. In 2014, it was amended (2014, c. 12, s. 8.) to require the prior approval of a majority in both the Senate and House of Commons for electronic voting, rather than just Senate and House committees.[1]

The relevant provision applying to electronic voting is:

PART 2 CHIEF ELECTORAL OFFICER AND STAFF

Alternative voting process

18.1 The Chief Electoral Officer may carry out studies on voting, including studies respecting alternative voting processes, and may devise and test an alternative voting process for future use in a general election or a by-election. Such a process may not be used for an official vote without the prior approval of the committees of the Senate and of the House of Commons that normally consider electoral matters or, in the case of an alternative electronic voting process, without the prior approval of the Senate and the House of Commons.

Federal Initiative to Increase Voter Turnout[edit]

It was reported that 'Elections Canada hoped to test web voting by 2013, beginning with a byelection. "The general philosophy is to take the ballot box to the voter," says Mayrand, Canada's chief electoral officer.'[2]

Elections Canada released a report requesting approval to conduct an "electronic voting test-run in a byelection by 2013".[3]

The tests of online voting never took place.[4]

2010 Federal Dialogue on Internet Voting[edit]

On January 26, 2010 Elections Canada in conjunction with partners organised The Canada-Europe Transatlantic Dialogue (Strategic Knowledge Cluster) - Internet Voting: What Can Canada Learn?[5] Examples of Internet voting from Europe and from Canadian municipalities were presented.[6]

2016 Federal Consultation on Electoral Reform, Including Online Voting[edit]

On June 7, 2016, the House of Commons created a Special Committee on Electoral Reform. The committee was charged "to identify and conduct a study of viable alternate voting systems to replace the first-past-the-post system, as well as to examine mandatory voting and online voting".[7] The committee's report was issued December 1, 2016 and recommended against online voting.[8]

In parallel with the committee, starting August 26, 2016 the then Minister of Democratic Institutions Maryam Monsef conducted a cross-country consultation tour on the same topics.[9] The in-person consultation was followed with a Minister of Democractic Institutions online consultation that launched December 5, 2016.[10]

2017 statement from Elections Canada[edit]

The statement "Elections Canada has no plans to introduce electronic casting or counting of votes. Polling places will continue using paper ballots, marked and counted by hand." is included in an advanced notice of proposed procurement for Electronic Polls Books issued March 2, 2017.[11]

2017 Government of Canada Statement Confirming No National Online Voting[edit]

On April 3, 2017 the Government of Canada responded to the recommendations of the Special Committee on Electoral Reform, and accepted the recommendation against online voting, stating "We will not implement online voting at this time."[12][13]

2017 Communications Security Establishment Report and Minister of Democratic Institutions Mandate Letter[edit]

Released February 1, 2017, the Mandate Letter for incoming Minister of Democratic Institutions Karina Gould signaled a concern about cyber threats to the Canadian electoral process:[14]

In collaboration with the Minister of National Defence and the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, lead the Government of Canada’s efforts to defend the Canadian electoral process from cyber threats. This should include asking the Communications Security Establishment (CSE) to analyze risks to Canada’s political and electoral activities from hackers, and to release this assessment publicly. As well, ask CSE to offer advice to Canada’s political parties and Elections Canada on best practices when it comes to cyber security.

On June 16, 2017 the Communications Security Establishment released the report indicated in the Minister's Mandate Letter. The report is entitled Cyber Threats to Canada's Democratic Process.[15] The report states that multiple types of adversaries are targeting Canada, including nation-states and cybercriminals. It finds that federal elections are well-protected due to being conducted on paper with good control measures.

Federal elections are largely paper-based and Elections Canada has a number of legal, procedural, and information technology measures in place, which mitigate cyber threats.

Provincial[edit]

Each province can choose its own voting machines and standards.

Alberta[edit]

Alberta does not permit the use of Internet voting in provincial elections.[16]

British Columbia[edit]

British Columbia does not permit the use of Internet voting in provincial elections. A February 2014 Independent Panel on Internet Voting recommended "Do not implement universal Internet voting for either local government or provincial government elections at this time."[17][18] The October 2014 Report of the Chief Electoral Officer indicated "Elections BC endorses the recommendations of the Independent Panel on Internet Voting".[19]

New Brunswick[edit]

It was reported in the Globe and Mail on May 13, 2004 that "New Brunswick's chief electoral officer is reviewing the possibility of using electronic voting machines on a wide basis."[20]

New Brunswick used vote counting computers in 2014 and encountered problems.[21]

2016-2017 Commission on Electoral Reform[edit]

On July 5, 2016, the governing Liberals tabled a discussion on electoral paper in the legislature and signaled the formation of a Commission on Electoral Reform. The discussion paper included online voting as one of the ideas.[22][23]

On November 9, 2016 the five electoral reform commissioners were announced.[24]

The Commission on Electoral Reform held public meetings in January 2017.[25][26]

The Commission report recommended against online voting. The recommendations from the Commission on Electoral Reform were submitted to the clerk of the Executive Council on March 1, 2017.[27][28][29]

Nova Scotia[edit]

Nova Scotia does not permit the use of Internet voting in provincial elections. In a 2013 report, the Election Commission of Nova Scotia concluded that "it is premature to entertain either Internet based or telephone voting options at this time."[30]

Ontario[edit]

Ontario does not permit the use of Internet voting in provincial elections. A three-year study of "network voting" concluded in 2013 that "At this point, we do not have a viable method of network voting that meets our criteria and protects the integrity of the electoral process."[31]

Ontario did a pilot of electronic vote counting in a provincial byelection in 2016.[32]

Prince Edward Island[edit]

In Prince Edward Island's 2016 plebiscite on electoral reform residents were able to cast their vote in-person, online, or by touch-tone telephone. This was the first time a provincial plebiscite offered online and telephone voting options.[33]

Quebec[edit]

Quebec does not permit the use of Internet voting or electronic voting.

On October 24, 2006 the Chief Electoral Officer of Quebec released a report (in French only) "Report on the Evaluation of New Methods of Voting".[34] In a press release, three root causes of problems with electronic voting machines in the 2005 municipal elections were identified:[35]

  • an imprecise legislative and administrative framework
  • absence of technical specifications, norms and standards
  • poor management of voting systems (especially lack of security measures)

He recommended that the moratorium on the use of these systems be maintained, and left it up to the provincial legislature to decide whether or not to use electronic voting in future. The moratorium remains in place.

Municipal[edit]

Each municipality can choose its own voting machines and standards, although in some provinces municipalities are required to follow provincial standards and regulations. For more information about the elections themselves, see Municipal elections in Canada. Ontario and Nova Scotia permit municipal Internet voting, upon approval by individual city councils.

Alberta[edit]

As of 2013, Alberta does not support the use of online voting in municipal elections.[16]

Edmonton, Alberta offered touch-screen voting machines for advance voting in 2004.[36]

New Brunswick[edit]

Saint John, New Brunswick used optical scanning machines in the 2004 municipal election.[citation needed]

Nova Scotia[edit]

2016 Municipal Elections[edit]

20 communities used Internet voting as a voting method in the 2016 Nova Scotia municipal elections.[37]

Internet and telephone voting combined turnout in Halifax dropped by more than 10,000 compared to 2012.[38]

Digby, Nova Scotia (population approximately 2,000) offered only Internet and telephone as voting options; no paper ballots.

2012 Municipal Elections[edit]

16 communities with a combined population of 490,490 used Internet voting as a voting method in the 2012 Nova Scotia municipal elections.[39]

Digby, Nova Scotia (population approximately 2,000) offered only Internet and telephone as voting options; no paper ballots.

2008 Municipal Elections[edit]

4 communities with a combined population of 284,768 used Internet voting as a voting method in the 2008 Nova Scotia municipal elections.[39]

In the Halifax Regional Municipality municipal election, 2008, residents of the Halifax Regional Municipality had the option of advance voting over the Internet.[40][41] Voters received a PIN in a letter sent specifically in their name to their address, and needed the PIN plus their date of birth to identify themselves to the system.[42]

Ontario[edit]

See Municipal elections in Ontario for a list of elections.

2014 Municipal Elections[edit]

97 communities (out of a potential 414 that ran elections) used Internet voting as a voting method.[43]

Leamington, Ontario (population approximately 28,000) provided Internet voting as the only option in the 2014 municipal election; no paper ballots.[44]

Coburg, Ontario (population approximately 18,000) provided only Internet and telephone voting in 2014; no paper ballots.[45]

2010 Municipal Elections[edit]

44 communities with a combined population of 800,887 used Internet voting as a voting method in the 2010 Ontario municipal elections.[39]

CTV reported that 33 municipalities used the Intelivote Internet and telephone voting system. "The online and telephone voting system was used by 33 municipalities, causing several problems across the region."[46] Other municipalities extended their voting period by one hour.[47]

In the Huntsville, Ontario election there was Internet voting provided by Canadian company Intelivote. There was an error in sending some of the PINs out by postal mail; as a result, replacement PINs were mailed out.[48]

Arnprior, Ontario provided Internet and telephone voting and was forced to extend voting by a further 24 hours due to problems with people logging into the Intelivote system. The issue was traced to a hardware failure of one of the servers due to higher than expected load.[46][49][50][51][52]

Coburg, Ontario (population approximately 18,000) provided only Internet and telephone voting in 2010; no paper ballots.[45]

2006 Municipal Elections[edit]

20 communities with a combined population of 397,537 used Internet voting as a voting method in the 2006 Ontario municipal elections.[39]

In an effort to address accessibility issues Kingston, Ontario offered touch-screen voting machines for advance voting in 2006 supplied by Diebold Election Systems.[53] Diebold Election Systems became Premier Election Solutions, whose primary assets have been purchased by Dominion Voting Systems.

Peterborough, Ontario introduced Internet voting in 2006 in addition to the more traditional methods.[54]

In 2006, Markham again used Internet voting and experienced a 48% growth in online voting.[55]

2003 Municipal Elections[edit]

12 communities with a combined population of 255,837 used Internet voting as a voting method in the 2003 Ontario municipal elections.[39]

The Ottawa municipal elections have used optical scan machines since at least 2003.[56]

Markham, Ontario introduced an Internet voting system in 2003.[57] The system was supplied by US company Election Systems & Software at a cost of $25,000.

Windsor, Ontario used touch-screen balloting in a 2002 by-election and in the 2003 Ontario Municipal Election, but only at their advance polls.[citation needed]

Previous Elections[edit]

Since 1988, the City of St. Catharines has been using optical scan voting technology for tabulating votes during the Municipal Elections.[58]

Jonathon Hollins, Canadian director of Election Systems & Software reports that "Voting on standalone touch-screen machines (Direct Recording Electronics), ... which also caters to the visually-impaired through an audio ballot, has been used in municipal elections held in Toronto, Edmonton, and the Ontario cities of Vaughan, Brantford, Oakville and Mississauga.[citation needed]

A 2000 year-end report from Global Election Systems (formerly called Diebold Election Systems and now called Premier Election Solutions) states "Global reports add-on sales of 60 AccuVote systems to the City of Ottawa and 70 to the City of Hamilton as well as first-time sales of 60 AccuVote-TS systems to the City of Barrie".[citation needed]

Quebec[edit]

Quebec held municipal elections in 2005. Numerous problems were reported with the voting machines used, and Pierre Bourque of Vision Montreal called for some re-votes. Approximately one year later, the Quebec Chief Electoral Officer released a report highly critical of the systems and processes used.

As a result of the report, a moratorium on the use of electronic voting in municipal elections has been in place in Quebec since 2006.[34]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]