Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Internet Voting in Canada Today

Internet voting is currently offered as an option in municipal elections in the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Nova Scotia.*

In 2003, 12 cities in Ontario offered an Internet voting option. That grew to 20 in 2006, and doubled to 44 in 2010. Then the number leapt to 97 cities in Ontario in 2014.^

In 2008, 4 cities in Nova Scotia offered an online voting option. That increased to 16 cities in 2012, and then 20 cities in 2016.

In 2014, 59 cities went entirely paperless, offering just online voting or a combination of Internet and telephone voting.

Public Opinion
Recently, Canadian political scientist Nicole Goodman and professor of communications, Heather Pyman, released a study of public opinion about online voting in Ontario.  They surveyed voters, candidates, and election administrators in 47 of the 97 cities that offered Internet voting in the October 2014 municipal elections in that province.  While over 200,000 people were involved in the process, 33,090 participated in the survey for a response rate of about 17%.

Ninety-five percent of respondents report being satisfied with the online voting process. Eighty percent were ‘very satisfied,’ suggesting a degree of enthusiasm for the Internet voting option. (p16)

98% of respondents say they would be likely to vote online in future municipal elections, 93% report being ‘very likely’ to do so.  Similar percentages would be likely/very likely to vote online in state or federal elections. (p18)

Convenience was the biggest benefit voters cited. In the comment section of the survey, respondents said they appreciated not having to wait in lines, being able to vote without losing time from work, or vote while at work, or while being out of town, and not having to deal with polling place clerks.  Some felt that online voting provided more privacy than voting on paper in a polling place. (p17) 88% cast their ballots from home, and 7% from work. (p20) The majority of online voters used their PC rather than other connected devices. (p21)

Over 95 percent say they would recommend Internet voting, with less than 5 percent saying they would ‘definitely’ or ‘probably’ not do so. (p18) (Some of the latter respondents felt frustrated by the security steps required to vote online, which are mentioned below.)

14 percent of online voters indicated they either ‘definitely’ or ‘probably’ would not have cast a ballot had it not been for Internet voting. (p25)

While one might expect younger voters to vote online more than older voters, the actual figures are the exact opposite. Only 4 percent of online voters are aged 18 to 24 years, 8% are 25 to 34, and 14 percent are 35 to 44.  Seventy-four percent of the online voters are 45 years old or older.  

65% of Internet voter respondents report being over the age of 50. Thus, the most likely to vote online are those over 50. (p28) Because young people generally vote less, they are less likely to be users of Internet voting. (p29)

Education and Gender
Fifty-seven percent of the online voters report having at least some college education; with 55% female, and 45% male. (p29)

Security Ambiguity
No evidence has been offered of any votes or vote totals having been changed by hackers in any Canadian public election.  Security precautions have been successful.  Methods of voter authentication vary. Some only require a secret PIN.  Others call for a secret PIN, birth date, email confirmation, and a security question, which some voters found to be complicated.

37% of those voters who chose not to vote online cited security concerns.  But 32% of non-online voters reported having no concerns about the security of the technology. (p35)

54% of all respondents said they believe voting by mail is less safe than by Internet, but 28 percent feel mailing in ballots is safer, and 18 percent were not sure. (p35)

Sixty-nine percent of candidates report being satisfied with the Internet voting process.  47% say they were ‘very satisfied.'  73% of candidates were satisfied with the security of the election. (p46)

Nearly 80% of candidates feel positive about having an Internet voting option.  But sixty percent of respondents say they are ‘completely against’ having Internet voting as the only option, 21 percent say they are mostly against that. (p51)

In general, election administrators report that their municipality chose Internet voting to make voting more accessible and convenient for voters. (p57)  But it was also more convenient for them, especially as to the speed and accuracy of the vote count. (p55) Thirty-one percent of administrators thought costs had decreased due to the adoption of online voting, 18% thought they had increased, and 14 percent believed they stayed the same. (p58)

The vast majority had confidence in the security of their Internet voting technology. (p61) As to turnout, early voting increased when online voting was offered as an option, but overall turnout only increased slightly. (The authors suggest that the general increase was around 3.5%, p65, note 15)  

Ninety-six percent of administrators were ‘very’ or ‘fairly’ satisfied with the process, and none say they were ‘not at all’ satisfied with the process. (p53)  Over 90% of administrators said they would recommend Internet voting in future municipal, provincial, and federal elections.  81% of administrators said they would ‘definitely’ recommend Internet voting for their 2018 municipal election. (p60)

This study showcases a group of voters, candidates, and administrators with amazing courage and pioneering spirit compared to their southern neighbors. Ontario Canadians are a model for their counter parts in the USA.  Why Internet voting would advance democracy in the US political system, and why that progress is being obstructed, is discussed in several earlier posts on this blog, such as here, here, and here.

William J. Kelleher, Ph.D.
Author of Internet Voting Now! Here's How. Here's Why - So You Can Kiss Citizens United Goodbye!

*Thanks to Canadian political scientist Nicole Goodman and to Prof. Heather Pyman for producing the study from which the above information is taken. The study can be accessed at The Centre for e-Democracy  (free, safe download)

^Stats from ibid, pages 10f