Airdrie council tables decision on Internet voting for 2013 election
Airdrie City council unanimously voted to table a decision on Internet voting, Jan. 21.
The move was made after a presentation, by Sharon Pollyck, Airdrie’s manager of legislative services, and a lengthy discussion about the pros and cons of Internet voting in the next election, set to take place this fall.
“I am not ready to make a decision this evening,” said Alderman Glenda Alexander. “I look forward to more information.”
Pollyck presented council with a number of options for electronic voting, which is being piloted this fall in Alberta and is used worldwide, including using the method only for the advanced vote, discontinuing paper voting all together and doing a mixture of the two.
She said Airdrie has the opportunity to piggyback on the pilot project being conducted by Edmonton, Strathcona County and St. Albert. The pilot would cost the City between about $22,500 and $30,000 depending on how it is used.
“Internet voting is a very, very expensive proposition,” Pollyck said, adding Edmonton alone invested $150,000 into the upcoming pilot.
In the 2010 election, Airdrie’s voting station costs were about $22,000. For 2013, this number is budgeted at $36,000, according to a staff report. The total cost of this year’s municipal election is projected to be $42,500.
Pollyck said Internet voting has a number of benefits, including ease of voting and future savings should the City decide to go paperless.
“Internet voting is just another alternative method of voting,” said Pollyck. “It’s the ultimate convenience in terms of casting the ballot.”
Pollyck explained voters would cast their vote online with the use of a special identification and pin number, and personal information would not be traceable to the online ballot once it is submitted.
Voters also receive confirmation of their vote through an electronic receipt.
She added the system has been used all over the world and while it can’t prevent voter fraud, Scytl, the European company set to host the pilot project, flags unusual voting patterns.
Pollyck said Airdrie voters currently can vote using special or mail-in ballots, take part in advance voting or physically go to the polling station on election day.
She noted 56 per cent of the 2012 census results were completed online.
Aldermen expressed concern about a variety of potential issues including online coercion, cost and block voting.
“I have a real concern about going from one (method of voting) to another just like that,” said Alexander. “Let’s ensure we take seniors into consideration.”
Alderman Ron Chapman said the physical act of voting is important.
“I have a real issue with not being able to go and put my X on the ballot,” he said. “I don’t like it at all.”
Mayor Peter Brown said the younger generation uses technology for every aspect of their lives.
“It’s the way to go, but I need more information,” he said.
Alderman Kelly Hegg agreed.
“In order to be a citizen, there has to be active participation,” he said. “We need a little bit more time.”
Council directed staff to provide them with more information about the cost of future elections, how the pilot prevents voter fraud and how many Airdronians voted in the last election between 6:30 a.m. and 10 a.m. Council will discuss the issue at a later date, not yet determined.