A few weeks ago I attended a public presentation by Intelivote Systems Inc. to Parry Sound town council concerning the e-voting system that has been proposed for the 2014 municipal elections. Council attended the presentation plus a couple of people in the audience. Cogeco recorded the presentation and I’m not sure if/when it was broadcast. This short post summarizes my thoughts following the presentation.

My use of the expression ‘e-voting’ really doesn’t properly capture the election process. The proposed voting system would also allow for telephone voting using a confidential personalized authentication code. Individuals who are registered on the town voter lists would receive their code by mail. This same code could also be used to vote online using a standard browser connection. The code can only be used once, either by phone or online. The system has safeguards in place to prevent voting abuse that seem reasonable. Like mail-in votes there is always the possibility of fraud, but it seems to be limited. I understood there will also be the option of voting in person at the usual polling station(s).

I won’t go in to the actual process or the associated pros and cons. It seems to be a reasonable system that has been widely used and validated. There are a couple of points that may be of interest to Parry Sound residents.

The e-voting process will save the town about one-third the cost of a regular paper ballot voting system. The process will make it more convenient for people who are on vacation, or unable to come to the polling stations, to vote and make their opinion count.

What did surprise me is that the candidates will be provided information on who has, and hasn’t, cast their vote as the voting process proceeds. My understanding is that online and telephone voting will start several days before Election Day. This early voting is rather common and is no surprise. You will be able to e-vote on any of the days the polls are open until the election closes and the votes are counted. But with this new e-voting system the candidates for office are able to go online at any time while the vote is ongoing to see by individual name and address who has, and hasn’t, yet cast their ballot. This means you may find yourself receiving a call to get online and vote from a candidate or their supporters, especially if they believe they have your support.

I find this a little creepy. Yes we should vote, but I’m not happy that if, and when, I vote is made quite so public, and is made instantly accessible to the candidates. When I asked about this I was told that the voting records are public documents. The only difference versus the paper ballot system is that the information will be made available on a real-time basis, at the push of a button. It will reportedly only be available to the candidates and the voting officials.

It makes me wonder if it wouldn’t be ‘interesting’ to run for council for no other reason that to have access to who has, and hasn’t, voted. It’s a bit like Santa’s naughty and nice list. I told you it felt a bit creepy.

So we will more than likely have a new voting system in place for the Parry Sound municipal elections in 2014. I’m in support of the new system after attending the presentation. It will make it easier for more people to exercise their right to vote; especially the young and the elderly for whom getting to the polling station at the stated hours can be a challenge.

We may find that it’s easier than ever to get information by going online. The price is less privacy.  Is it a fair trade-off? I don’t know, but it is a reality already.

Bad Hair Day or Just Heavy on the Gel?
(April 2013, North Shore Rugged Trail)