Month: December 2016

Eurasia Review – Democracy In The 21st Century – comment

My comment on December 9, 2016 Eurasia Review article Democracy In The 21st Century – Analysis.

COMMENT

In support of Antony Hodgson’s point, British Columbia does not have Internet voting at either the provincial or municipal level. The BC Independent Panel on Internet Voting recommended against online voting in 2014 and there has been no change from Elections BC since then. A small number of First Nations communities in British Columbia have offered Internet voting. Those are small elections however, with a few hundred votes cast in total.

ENDCOMMENT

The Hill Times – Electoral reform will not happen in this Parliament – comment

Here is the comment I posted on The Hill Times article Electoral reform will not happen in this Parliament – December 12, 2016

COMMENT

“online voting would definitely entice more millennial and younger generation citizens to the polls”

With respect, no it wouldn’t. Evidence from all over the world shows that online voting doesn’t increase voter turnout. The people who vote online are the same people who would have voted offline. Youth turnout is low with online voting, because it is low with paper voting. In the PEI Plebiscite, with ten days of online voting, turnout for ages 18-24 was the lowest of any age range, at 25.47%.

Here are four reports that include the topic of online voting and turnout:

Gosse, R. (2012, December 10). FCS-12- 191 – Alternate Voting – Internet Voting. Retrieved from City of Kitchener – Laserfiche WebLink: https://lf.kitchener.ca/WebLinkExt/DocView.aspx?id=1235356&dbid=0

Archer, K., Beznosov, K., Crane, L.-A., King, V., & Morfitt, G. (2014, February 12). Recommendations Report to the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia. Retrieved from British Columbia Independent Panel on Internet Voting: http://www.internetvotingpanel.ca/docs/recommendations-report.pdf

Goodman, N., & Stokes, L. C. (2016, October 6). Reducing the Cost of Voting: An Empirical Evaluation of Internet Voting’s Effect on Local Elections. Retrieved from Social Science Research Network (SSRN): https://ssrn.com/abstract=2849167

McLeod, G. B. (2016, November 9). Interim Report of the Chief Electoral Officer for the 2016 Plebiscite on Democratic Renewal. Retrieved from Elections Prince Edward Island: http://www.gov.pe.ca/photos/original/elec_demrefpleb.pdf

For over a dozen references on this topic you can see https://papervotecanada2.wordpress.com/2016/12/12/online-voting-doesnt-increase-turnout/

ENDCOMMENT

Online voting doesn’t increase turnout

I wish I didn’t have to say this again and again, but I do.  Here’s what I wrote for the New Brunswick consultation

The City of Kitchener’s 2012 report on Internet voting finds that “There is clear evidence that, regardless of geography internet voting does not attract younger voters.” (Gosse, 2012) Similarly, the 2014 BC Independent Panel on Internet Voting finds in their report that “research suggests that Internet voting does not generally cause nonvoters to vote. Instead, Internet voting is mostly used as a tool of convenience for individuals who have already decided to vote.” (Archer, Beznosov, Crane, King, & Morfitt, 2014)

The paper “Reducing the Cost of Voting: An Empirical Evaluation of Internet Voting’s Effect on Local Elections” by Nichole Goodman and Leah Stokes reviews extensive evidence from online voting in Ontario municipalities and finds that “internet voting is unlikely to solve the low turnout crisis”. (Goodman & Stokes, 2016) A recent demonstration of the reality of Internet voting turnout was the 2016 Prince Edward Island Plebiscite on Democratic Renewal which had 10 days of online voting in addition to two days of in-person voting. Not only was the overall turnout low at 36.5%, but the turnout for ages 18-24 was the lowest of any age range, at 25.47%. (McLeod, 2016)

Gosse, R. (2012, December 10). FCS-12- 191 – Alternate Voting – Internet Voting. Retrieved from City of Kitchener – Laserfiche WebLink: https://lf.kitchener.ca/WebLinkExt/DocView.aspx?id=1235356&dbid=0

Archer, K., Beznosov, K., Crane, L.-A., King, V., & Morfitt, G. (2014, February 12). Recommendations Report to the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia. Retrieved from British Columbia Independent Panel on Internet Voting: http://www.internetvotingpanel.ca/docs/recommendations-report.pdf

Goodman, N., & Stokes, L. C. (2016, October 6). Reducing the Cost of Voting: An Empirical Evaluation of Internet Voting’s Effect on Local Elections. Retrieved from Social Science Research Network (SSRN): https://ssrn.com/abstract=2849167

McLeod, G. B. (2016, November 9). Interim Report of the Chief Electoral Officer for the 2016 Plebiscite on Democratic Renewal. Retrieved from Elections Prince Edward Island: http://www.gov.pe.ca/photos/original/elec_demrefpleb.pdf

But there’s more, much more than that.
Halifax has online voting. Turnout dropped by more than 10,000 in the 2016 Halifax election.

In the last municipal election in 2012, 66,272 people voted by e-vote and phone (22.2 per cent of the entire vote). At the close of e-voting Thursday, the HRM registered 55,788 electronic and telephone votes.

Evidence again and again shows that online voting does not increase participation, by youth or by any voting group.  All that happens is that (mostly middle-aged) people who would have voted at a polling station anyway vote online.
Evidence:

Young ontario voters (aged 18-24) more likely to use paper ballots than internet voting

above from Internet Voting Project Twitter – https://twitter.com/ivotingproject/status/660551650000699392 – 31 October 2015

  1. 3.100  Advocates also cite current Estonian and Swiss internet voting as improving equality and voter turnout, convenience and timely vote counting. However, these examples have either been consistently undermined in security analyses (in the case of Estonia) or have not been proven in a general election (in the case of Switzerland).

above from Parliament of Australia – Inquiry into and report on all aspects of the conduct of the 2013 Federal Election and matters related thereto Second Interim Report Chapter 3: National and international experience – Committee Comments
For more on Estonian Internet voting, see subsequent blog post (in legacy blog) Estonian Internet voting and turnout myths.

there was no impact on turnout, which actually decreased very slightly

above from UK Electoral Commission – Official report on internet voting pilot at Rushmoor elections published – June 3, 2008

Internet voting is seen by some as a potential solution to this trend of declining voter turnout. … While there have been some Internet voting elections where voter turnout has increased, when other factors such as the apparent closeness of the race and interest in particular contests (e.g., a mayoral election without an incumbent) are taken into consideration, research suggests that Internet voting does not generally cause non-voters to vote. Instead, Internet voting is mostly used as a tool of convenience for individuals who have already decided to vote.

above from BC Independent Panel on Internet Voting report (PDF) page 12 – February 2014

However, it said, there was no evidence that the trial led to a rise in the overall number of people voting nor that it mobilised new groups, such as young people, to vote.

above from BBC – E-voting experiments end in Norway amid security fears – 27 June 2014

At best, [Michael] McGregor said, the evidence is mixed. He sees internet voting as no different than advanced polls in that “it’s not increasing turnout, it’s just people who are already voting.”

[Nicole] Goodman’s data from municipal elections in the Toronto-area municipality of Markham, which has had internet voting since 2003, found that “those aged 35–64 are the strongest internet voting users in all election years and suggest that online ballots are growing in popularity among older voters while use is waning among younger voters.”

above from CBC News – Why hi-tech voting has low priority for Canadian elections – September 9, 2015

  • Statistics indicate that internet voting does not increase voter turnout or youth participation.

above from City of Mississauga report on Internet Voting – Potential enhancements for the 2018 Municipal Election: Internet Voting, Ranked Choice Elections and Vote Anywhere. (PDF) – June 20, 2016

Some content above adapted from legacy blog post evidence about online voting (particularly turnout).

In the Special Committee on Electoral Reform report Strengthening Democracy in Canada, they quote Harold Jansen

Harold Jansen posited that introducing online voting would not have any appreciable impact on voter turnout:

I also am suspicious of how great the gains would be in terms of voter turnout. I think most of the issues lie around motivation, not opportunity. I’m suspicious of a lot of things when people say on surveys, “Oh, I was too busy to vote”. Often, it just means, “There are other things more important to me than voting.” Okay, citizens can make those kinds of determinations. Voting is not that onerous, and I think Elections Canada has done a pretty good job in the last 20 years of improving the accessibility of the vote. There are more ways to vote than ever before.

I don’t think we should expect realistically huge gains in voter turnout. I don’t think that should be a motivation. It would be more convenient for some people, but these are people who would likely vote anyway. What I found was that the people most likely to say they were very likely to cast a vote in our survey were people who had already voted. They would just switch to doing it online.412

412ERRE, Evidence, 1st Session, 42nd Parliament, 22 August 2016, 2005 (Harold Jansen).

More on Marc Mayrand and electronic voting in Canada

Outgoing Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand wants to explore the use of electronic technology in the polling place for Canadian national elections. It’s not entirely clear what kind of technology. In his recommendations he points to the use of vote counting computers. Speaking to CBC’s The House on December 2, 2016, starting at 09:40 in, he speaks more generally about electronic voting.

Mark Mayrand 02-Dec-2016 electronic voting

I think the next step for Elections Canada is to bring technology at the polls. … If we could automate the processes at the polls, there would be fewer errors. … we also need to think about a form of electronic voting. Again technology is changing quickly, there’s new [technologies] that are more robust from a point of view of integrity and security and auditability, so we need to explore those [technologies] and begin at some point testing it.

He also spoke about this in an earlier interview, again on CBC’s The House, on September 30, 2016, starting basically at the beginning (0:07 in).

Mark Mayrand 30-Sept-2016 modernizing voting system

I think we need to increase our reliance on technology. Our system is entirely paper-based, it’s entirely manual, it’s very rigid, and it’s not scalable. … We want to get rid of the paper as much as we can. We want to automate processes, forms… filling those paper forms is also often a source of errors.

Right now our entire voting process fits on a single page. That’s not rigid, that’s beautiful code.

The Source Code of Canadian Democracy

(Slide from my presentation to Shopify about Internet voting.)

The outgoing Chief Electoral Officer is recommending we replace that one nationwide standard process with counting processes, including vote counting computers, as determined solely by the Chief Electoral Officer. I think this would be a major step backwards for Canada’s elections.

It’s hard to know how the recommendation about the use of technology at the polling places is being received, because  other than the first meeting, all 9 of the subsequent meetings on the topic to date at the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs (PROC) were closed (in camera; a meeting with a lock symbol).

These discussions are taking place in an environment where almost no one involved is a technology expert, let alone a voting technology expert, and where there has been no broad discussion in the media about electronic voting.  The consultation process associated with electoral reform did ask about electronic voting (despite not having a clear mandate to do so), but provided no briefing or even definition of electronic voting to provide context for discussions.

So basically as usual we’re making decisions about technology without involvement of technology experts, and without any information provided either from the government or by the media.

It is not clear how the public can provide input into the discussions, other than by contacting PROC.

PROC@parl.gc.ca

(“Yesterday” in the image below means December 6, 2016.)

PROC closed meetings about Chief Electoral Officers report 2016

MyDemocracy archetypes and online voting in Canada

The Government of Canada MyDemocracy.ca consultation questions will sort you into one of five “archetypes”:  Guardians, Challengers, Pragmatists, Cooperators or Innovators.  Based on the archetype, it will tell you what you think about online voting.  (Let’s for a moment set aside the validity of an online poll that draws conclusions about online voting, or the validity of this odd sorting hat exercise in and of itself.)

Summary: Please read a briefing about online voting before you answer the questions, but even if you read the briefing, your archetype grouping may not match your answers.

Table of Contents

The website doesn’t provide the capsule summaries for each archetype, but some of them have been posted to Twitter (I have to assume these particular screenshots haven’t been altered).  Here’s what they tell you you think about online voting:

Guardian

…the least likely to support moving from paper ballots to online voting.

Challenger

Split on the question of whether Canadians should have the option to vote online.

Pragmatist

…among the least likely archetypes to support online voting.

Cooperator

…they are open to online voting as a means to increase electoral participation…

Innovator

…the most open to the possibility of online voting as a means to increase electoral participation.

Biased Framing

“open to”

“increase electoral participation”

So basically if you’re opposed to online voting it’s because you’re not “open to” it.  I am “open to” it.  I’ve just spent twelve years following the issue.  I’m opposed because of the evidence.

Speaking of evidence, online voting does not increase electoral participation.  Study after study, election after election, expert witness after expert witness demonstrates this.  I wrote an entire blog post about turnout, it could easily have been twice as long, there’s tons of evidence.  More concisely, here’s what I wrote for the New Brunswick consultation

The City of Kitchener’s 2012 report on Internet voting finds that “There is clear evidence that, regardless of geography internet voting does not attract younger voters.” (Gosse, 2012) Similarly, the 2014 BC Independent Panel on Internet Voting finds in their report that “research suggests that Internet voting does not generally cause nonvoters to vote. Instead, Internet voting is mostly used as a tool of convenience for individuals who have already decided to vote.” (Archer, Beznosov, Crane, King, & Morfitt, 2014)

The paper “Reducing the Cost of Voting: An Empirical Evaluation of Internet Voting’s Effect on Local Elections” by Nichole Goodman and Leah Stokes reviews extensive evidence from online voting in Ontario municipalities and finds that “internet voting is unlikely to solve the low turnout crisis”. (Goodman & Stokes, 2016) A recent demonstration of the reality of Internet voting turnout was the 2016 Prince Edward Island Plebiscite on Democratic Renewal which had 10 days of online voting in addition to two days of in-person voting. Not only was the overall turnout low at 36.5%, but the turnout for ages 18-24 was the lowest of any age range, at 25.47%. (McLeod, 2016)

Gosse, R. (2012, December 10). FCS-12- 191 – Alternate Voting – Internet Voting. Retrieved from City of Kitchener – Laserfiche WebLink: https://lf.kitchener.ca/WebLinkExt/DocView.aspx?id=1235356&dbid=0 (see also http://papervotecanada.blogspot.ca/2016/08/city-of-kitchener-2012-report-on.html ) NOTE: It appears originally provided link http://lf.kitchener.ca/uniquesig0d1d2aa1a38f6e69dc1e79e99d780c34f537a34d9c901a0d7cbb1976cbfdd057/uniquesig0/WeblinkExt/0/doc/1235356/Page1.aspx no longer works

Archer, K., Beznosov, K., Crane, L.-A., King, V., & Morfitt, G. (2014, February 12). Recommendations Report to the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia. Retrieved from British Columbia Independent Panel on Internet Voting: http://www.internetvotingpanel.ca/docs/recommendations-report.pdf

Goodman, N., & Stokes, L. C. (2016, October 6). Reducing the Cost of Voting: An Empirical Evaluation of Internet Voting’s Effect on Local Elections. Retrieved from Social Science Research Network (SSRN): https://ssrn.com/abstract=2849167

McLeod, G. B. (2016, November 9). Interim Report of the Chief Electoral Officer for the 2016 Plebiscite on Democratic Renewal. Retrieved from Elections Prince Edward Island: http://www.gov.pe.ca/photos/original/elec_demrefpleb.pdf

Dubious Questions

The questions use an “even if” framing.  Note that they are presented in a random order, so I can’t indicate a specific question number.

Values - online even if less secure

“less secure”?  Less secure than what?  In what context?  Based on what information?

Values - even if this increases the cost

“increases the cost”?  By how much?  A million dollars?  A billion dollars?  What cost, the cost on the day of the election?  The cost to develop the system?  The total lifecycle cost?

But it gets worse…

Values - would increase voter participation

now we’re asking people to express an opinion on something that is provably not true.  I just listed the evidence above.  So it’s basically “do you agree with this thing that is false?”

Next we ask people to weigh security against accessibility.  Or in other words, to weigh security against compassion.

Preferences - cast ballots online

So basically, will you trade (some unknown level of) security and privacy for helping other citizens.

Frankly, I don’t care whether these questions tilt in favour of online voting or against.  What I care about is that they tilt at all.  You’re supposed to dive in with no information and click.  There’s no option at each step to get any context whatsoever.  This is not an informed consultation.

I am all in favour of consultation, but only one that is evidence-based, with a briefing weighing the pros and cons in details.  Instead there is no briefing paper provided about online voting to help provide context for people’s decisions.  I have written a separate blog post about the lack of briefing, in which I’ve provided extensive links to Internet voting reference material.

They put me in Slytherin

You will be unsurprised to find that I answered all of the questions about online voting with “Strongly Disagree”.  This put me to the far left edge of the online voting theme, as the strongest possible supporter of paper ballots, as one would expect.

And then MyDemocracy still clustered me into Innovators, who have the strongest support for online voting.
MyDemocracy online voting

Archetype Screenshots

MyDemocracy GuardiansMyDemocracy ChallengersMyDemocracy PragmatistsMyDemocracy CooperatorsMyDemocracy Innovators

MyDemocracy and online voting in Canada

The Government of Canada consultation website MyDemocracy.ca has launched.  This was an opportunity to inform every Canadian household about electoral reform issues, including online voting.

On the site at the very bottom right, you can click to “Learn More”.

MyDemocracy Learn More

Summary: You will not get a comprehensive briefing about online voting from the government no matter how far down the trail of links you go.

My Briefing about Online Voting

Here’s what you could have gotten:

You also could have gotten

  • An completely separate briefing about the use of electronic voting technologies at polling places, along with the many risks, and an explanation that from an implementation standpoint, there is no connection whatsoever between implementing polling place technologies and remote online voting

Details of the Government’s Online Voting Information

Here’s what you will actually get.

Clicking Learn More will take you to https://www.canada.ca/en/democratic-institutions/services/democracy-canada.html

And here’s what that page, entitled Democracy in Canada, has to say about online voting, under How you vote – How you cast your ballot

Today, most of us vote in person by pencil and paper, either on election day itself or in the advance polls in the days beforehand. Many people also use special ballots, which are mailed in or cast at your local Elections Canada office. Introducing new technologies at the polls could pave the way for online voting in the future.

Aujourd’hui, la plupart d’entre nous votent en personne en utilisant un crayon et du papier, soit le jour même des élections, soit dans les bureaux de scrutin par anticipation dans les jours qui précèdent. De nombreuses personnes utilisent aussi des bulletins de vote spéciaux, qui sont envoyés par la poste ou déposés à votre bureau local d’Élections Canada. La mise en place de nouvelles technologies dans les bureaux de scrutin pourrait ouvrir la voie au vote en ligne dans les années à venir.

Where does this assertion that “new technologies” (electronic voting) could lead to online voting come from? What evidence supports it?

Where is the discussion paper / issues paper / briefing about online voting?  Why are we discussing electronic voting in polling places at all?

If, by some miracle, you scroll all the way to the bottom of the Democracy in Canada page, you will find two more resources, one from Samara about different types of voting systems that provides no additional information about online and electronic voting, and one from the Library of Parliament.

For more information about Canada's current electoral system

Clicking the Library of Parliament link will take you to http://www.lop.parl.gc.ca/Content/LOP/ResearchPublications/2016-06-e.html?cat=government

Ok, maybe now we have a briefing about online voting, providing evidence from various fields of expertise including computer science, and weighing risks and benefits.

Well no, we don’t.  Somehow you navigate your way through the table of contents or through the long text to section 6.2 Online Voting

Library of Parliament Online Voting

And if you make it there, you will get, not one page, not 9 pages, not 16 pages, but four paragraphs. With no computer science experts cited.  As I documented in June 2016 in my analysis Online voting section of Background Paper 2016-06-E on Electoral Systems.

I will again express my profound disappointment in the failure of the government to provide an adequate, evidence-based briefing to inform consideration of online voting, particularly given the fact that they had an opportunity to provide information to all Canadians.  And to emphasize my concerns that in addition we are also having a discussion about electronic voting with, extraordinarily, no information or context whatsoever (not even a definition of what electronic voting is, or what technologies we may be considering).

Hashtag for the MyDemocracy consultation isn’t clear.  Presumably #EngagedInER ?  The most common one being used at the moment is #MyDemocracy

For more information about the consideration of electronic voting technologies in polling places, please keep an eye on the future Chief Electoral Officer, Elections Canada, and discussions at PROC, as well as the Ministry of Democratic Institutions.

Aleksander Essex presents about Internet voting security to Toronto Exec Committee

Researcher Aleksander Essex presented to the December 1, 2016 Toronto Executive Committee meeting that was considering a report recommending against Internet voting. You can see Aleksander’s presentation from 9:38 to 13:56 in the meeting video below.

He states “an overwhelming number of cybersecurity experts view Internet voting as one of the most challenging open problems in security, for a great many reasons”.

For more information about the 2016 Toronto report that was being discussed, see Toronto Internet voting.

Dr. Essex was co-author of the 2014 Toronto RFP report Internet Voting for Persons with Disabilities – Security Assessment of Vendor Proposals (PDF).

For more about Aleksander Essex see my list of computer science experts

https://papervotecanada2.wordpress.com/2016/11/19/internet-voting-and-computer-security-expertise/#AleksanderEssex