Reacting to news that her government has officially requested chief electoral officer Keith Archer examine the potential for using Internet voting in B.C., Cariboo Chilcotin Liberal MLA Donna Barnett says there are some things that need to be ironed out.
“Most people I’ve talked to have said it’s very important to go to the polls and vote like they always have,” Barnett says. “It’s a democratic right they want to keep. Others have said they are very interested in electronic voting, but there are many issues that have to be ironed out in my mind.”
Those issues include security, cost-effectiveness, and how it will affect people living in rural communities that have no access to Internet.
“There are a lot of places that have no Internet yet. We have a lot of people that do not use computers, so that’s a concern.”
In a letter, Minister of Justice and Attorney General Shirley Bond requested Archer to appoint an independent panel to review the best practices for Internet voting from other jurisdictions.
Barnett says it’s interesting that the minister has put the request out there and she’s anxious to see how much public consultation takes place and what the panel comes up with.
“I think there are a lot of things that have to be taken into consideration. You would have to take a model of Internet voting, and how it was developed, and have a trial run,” Barnett says, adding she anticipates it will take a while.
Williams Lake city councillor Geoff Bourdon applauds the order in which the government is approaching Internet voting, by looking at the pros and the cons.
“Especially with anything electronic, the biggest thing that people want to know is that it’s secure. I think it’s a good idea because our voting system and the way we do public interaction with politics is extremely dated. It needs to come into the 21st century and this is a good way to have that done,” Bourdon says.
Some people won’t like the idea, he suggests, adding there will be those who do want the option.
“People are still going to be able to go out and vote however they want, and in person, so I think it’s a great idea.”
While the Cariboo Regional District board hasn’t had a chance to discuss Internet voting, chair Al Richmond says elected officials support anything that will gain greater involvement in the election process.
“We’ll look forward to the report, which we assume will outline how they are going to protect the integrity of the electoral process.
It’s great to have the opportunity for electronic voting in some form, but we have to ensure that the integrity of the process remains intact,” Richmond says, adding the privacy of the voting process also needs to be protected.
In a press released issued by the Ministry of Justice and Ministry of Community Sport and Cultural Development on Aug. 9, Bond says the province is widely recognized as being technologically progressive and a leader in open government initiatives.
“If the independent panel determines we can maintain the utmost electoral integrity, I’m optimistic Internet voting could increase accessibility for British Columbians to participate in the democratic process,” Bond states.
Weighing in Minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development Ida Chong says several governments have expressed eagerness to adopt Internet voting as a way to increase voter turnout and the Union of British Columbia Municipalities has supported them.
“We will look forward to receiving the independent panel’s report,” Chong adds.