Council reconsiders internet voting, moves forward with pilot project
After rehashing a previous decision on internet voting for more than an hour on March 5, Airdrie City council again voted to go ahead with the project during this October’s municipal election.
Council first made the decision to include internet voting as another alternative to special ballots and in-person voting, subject to the approval of Municipal Affairs, on Feb. 4. At that time, several aldermen expressed concern about possible voter fraud, online security and associated costs.
Many of those concerns were brought up again during the latest discussion.
“I’m still very uncomfortable with internet voting,” said Alderman Glenda Alexander. “I’ve spoken to a lot of people and I have gotten some mixed feelings.”
Mark Pivon, spokesperson for Scytl, the company tasked with conducting the vote, was on hand to answer questions.
He assured council that although the Edmonton-area internet voting pilot project that Airdrie council agreed to piggyback on was not going forward, Airdrie’s quoted price of about $29,000, would not be affected. 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.
When asked why Edmonton City council had reversed its decision on online voting, Pivon said the decision was an emotionally charged one.
“A lot of time, people will choose to make decisions based on emotions,” he said. “There was also a lot erroneous information (out there).”
When queried about voter fraud and hackers breaking into the system, Pivon said in 18 years and 100,000 elections worldwide, no one has cracked the company’s system.
Several aldermen expressed concern about someone voting twice: online and at polling stations.
Sharon Pollyck, Airdrie’s manager of legislative services, said administration is currently investigating the possibility of creating a reverse voters list, which would exempt voting by paper ballot for those who already voted electronically or through a special ballot.
“We are working with legal counsel to make sure we can do that,” she said.
Alderman Murray Buchanan said he would like to see those interested in internet voting register in person at City Hall prior to the Oct. 21 vote so staff can check photo identification to ensure the person registering is actually eligible and who he or she says they are.
Pollyck said electoral legislation states people either have to produce one piece of photo identification or two pieces of non-photo identification. Because of this, the City is unable to demand photo identification.
Alderman Kelly Hegg said he would not support internet voting if participants were forced to register in person.
“The whole purpose of internet voting is to make it more convenient,” said Hegg. “It’s a chance to try it out; it’s a chance to be innovative. I stand by where I stood before. I believe this is an opportunity for us and a chance to engage a part of the population that might not be engaged.”
Mayor Peter Brown agreed.
“The feedback overwhelmingly from the mayor’s office was very positive in terms of another option for voting,” he said.
Council voted to go ahead with internet voting pending ministerial approval. The mayor will pen a letter to Minister of Municipal Affairs Doug Griffiths outlining council’s concerns.