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.

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