The Northwest Territories (NWT) will be introducing the option of online voting for absentee voting in the October 2019 Territorial General Election.
For context, “In total, 12,702 ballots were cast in the 2015 Territorial General Election, representing a 44 percent [44%] voter turnout.” The total number of registered electors was 28,662. In the 2015 Territorial General Election the total number of absentee ballots was 110 (one hundred and ten). – Data from 2015 Official Voting Results, Elections NWT (PDF).
Questions to ask
- What vendor(s) have been procured?
- What regulations and procedures are in place per NWT Elections Act 132.1. and 360.(f) ?
- What has been done to ensure a reliable, practical, tested system?
The authority to conduct online absentee voting, described in law as “voting by absentee ballot by electronic means”, comes from the NWT Elections and Plebiscites Act, as amended November 20, 2018 (PDF). There are two relevant sections:
132.1. The Chief Electoral Officer may, in accordance with the regulations, establish procedures in respect of voting by absentee ballot by electronic means. S.N.W.T. 2018,c.16,s.40.
360. The Commissioner, on the recommendation of the Chief Electoral Officer, may make regulations
(f) respecting voting by absentee ballot by electronic means, including regulations that specify which, if any, of the provisions of this Act regarding absentee ballots are to apply to voting by absentee ballot by electronic means.
S.N.W.T. 2010, c.15,s.50; S.N.W.T. 2018,c.16,s.73.
In reviewing the proposal for online absentee voting before the changes to the NWT Elections Act were made, the Standing Committee on Rules and Procedures provided feedback in 2017
The Committee supports amending the Act to allow for the option of electronic voting for absentee ballots in the NWT when a reliable, practical system can be tested and implemented.
Committee Report 1-18(3) / October 17, 2017 / 18th Legislative Assembly of the Northwest Territories, Standing Committee on Rules and Procedures / Report on the Review of the Chief Electoral Officer’s Report on the Administration of the 2015 Territorial General Election, Supplementary Recommendations, and the White Paper on the Independence and Accountability of Election Administration in the Northwest Territories (PDF)
Regulations and Procedures, Reliable Tested System
Accordingly, there should be regulations per NWT Elections Act 360.(f) and procedures per 136.1.
The system should also be tested and demonstrated to be reliable and practical per the Standing Committee on Rules and Procedures report.
Unfortunately I am unable to locate any regulations, procedures, or testing information online. This is a major gap in all Canadian online voting to date, with an absence of standards and independent public testing. I hope that Elections NWT will provide this information and make their system available for testing.
(To be clear, I don’t think there should be online voting at all, but if there is going to be, there must be independent, unrestricted public testing first.)
For more information, see: