Thursday, June 20, 2013

Canada abandons Internet voting and goes back to manual elections

Toronto. Image: FreeDigitalPhotos

Canada has halted its plans to carry out an Internet voting pilot in 2015, in spite of earlier signs of approval of this electoral method. The decision is allegedly due to budget cuts, as Elections Canada has been subjected to a loss of $7.5 million per year. 

Security was another reason Canada’s electoral body refrained from moving forward. Although they had had some success in previous experiences with Internet voting, the risk of massive tampering and identity theft are still an issue. 

Unfortunately, turning back to manual voting is far from an ideal solution as irregularities have been documented in previous elections.

The electoral body of the North American country has acknowledged that irregularities have actually been found in manual voting. After the 2011 federal poll, it was discovered that election officers had made more than 500 serious procedural errors, and paperwork was deficient in more than 165,000 cases. Having weighed between two unreliable options, wouldn’t it be time to think of one that really works? With voting machines, Canada would have a real chance of holding fully auditable elections, devoid of human error, instead of switching back to a system that has been admittedly faulty.

Implementing voting machines would actually be the way to reduce the organization costs of upcoming polls, now that the electoral body cites budget constraints as grounds for returning to manual voting. Even though the initial implementation of an e-voting platform is a high investment, it represents savings in the long run. For example: voting machines do not require paper ballots, which cost millions of dollars to produce each time. If there is a sudden change in the electoral event, touchscreen devices make it easier to make the necessary adjustments without further investment.

Canada shut the door to automation for no other reason than not having exhausted all possibilities. Safe, reliable electoral technology is still out there, waiting to be implemented and to radically improve people’s participation in Democracy.