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