Edmonton rejects Internet voting 11-2

It has been a matter of consideral discussion and evaluation in Edmonton, Alberta. Should they jump on the bandwagon and double the cost of elections to accept the risks of Internet voting? For now, Edmonton is solidly on the side of science, rejecting Internet voting for very good reasons.

We have written recently of the debates, the costs, the risks, and the Citizen Jury lacking technical participation.

Like DDT, Nuclear Power, Fast Food, and GMOs, Internet voting has some very attractive, beneficial aspects, yet there are often unknown, overlooked, or downplayed real or potential problems. It takes a lot of careful research and evaluation to determine the net current and future risks and benefits.



Edmonton council defeats proposal for Internet voting this fall

– The future of Internet voting in Alberta is unclear after Edmonton city council turned down a proposal Wednesday to allow online ballots as part of October’s civic election.

Although city staff insisted the system was extensively tested over the past year, including a mock “jelly bean” election and confirmation by a citizen jury, councillors worried the process isn’t entirely secure.

“The fact is, if major banks can be hacked, what’s guaranteeing our voting system wouldn’t be hacked?” Coun. Kerry Diotte asked.

There were also fears someone could collect other voters’ email addresses, picture identification and passwords, then cast multiple ballots in a hotly contested race.

“If you want to coerce someone, it’s easier to do that with Internet voting than it is at a voting station,” Coun. Tony Caterina said.

“At this point in 2013, I don’t think you’re ready to answer all these questions.”

There was little support for the initial proposal to permit Internet ballots before the Oct. 21 election in advance polls, which attracted 15,000 people in 2010.

But council voted 11-2 against a compromise motion to allow it just for special ballots, used three years ago by about 800 shut-ins, election workers and people away from Edmonton for an extended period.

Don Iveson and Ben Henderson were the only councillors to favour the move, arguing electronic ballots are as secure as the paper version.

“I think there’s, frankly, some paranoia about the technology because it’s unknown,” Iveson said.

“I understand the instinct to want to test it further, but those risks that people will behave badly aren’t going to go away.”

City clerk Alayne Sinclair said an outside consulting company was hired to try to breach the jelly bean election system, but along with a NAIT computing class and 10 other hackers, they didn’t succeed.

While one computer programmer says he cast two ballots in the mock election, showing it’s vulnerable to fraud, he appears to have done this by registering twice, which wasn’t being controlled, Sinclair said.

“We were told by the professionals that for all of the time people say they can penetrate the system, there’s no example anywhere that anyone has.”

Providing Internet ballots would have cost $400,000.

The city has already paid $400,000 to test the system developed by Spain’s Scytl, but Coun. Linda Sloan had philosophical as well as money concerns.

“Do we really want to configure a system where people can vote in their pyjamas? … Voting is an act of civic engagement,” she said.

“I’m not convinced this is a direction we want to take, particularly because it privatizes both the act and the system of voting.”

The province has been working with Edmonton, St. Albert and Strathcona County since last year on how to introduce Alberta’s first Internet voting, already used in dozens of centres in Ontario and Nova Scotia.

Grande Prairie, the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo, Airdrie, and Lethbridge were also studying the idea.

Officials in the two capital region municipalities don’t know what will happen now that their largest partner has backed out.

“The intention of the pilot was to have the three of us do it together,” said Jacqueline Roblin, Strathcona County’s manager of legislative services.

“Now that Edmonton is no longer on board, I’m not sure how this will proceed.”

But Kalina Kamenova, who spent months working on public consultation for the scheme as research director at the University of Alberta’s Centre for Public Involvement, said she thinks city council made the wrong decision.

Most councillor concerns were already addressed by the 17-member citizen jury, which after days of discussions and hearing from experts supported online voting, Kamenova wrote in an email.

“It is surprising that councillors went against the verdict of the citizen jury and overlooked Edmontonians’ overwhelming support for this innovative voting option,” she wrote, emphasizing this is her opinion.

“It makes you wonder why so much money is being spent by the city for public involvement when citizens’ input doesn’t really have any impact on decision-making.”

© Copyright (c) The Edmonton Journal


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