Online voters give trial system thumbs up
St. Albert mayor eager to roll out system for 2013 civic election
By: Kevin Ma
| Posted: Saturday, Jan 19, 2013 06:00 am
Edmonton should bring in Internet voting for the coming fall election, says a new report, and St. Albert’s mayor says his city may follow suit.
The City of Edmonton posted its final report this week on last fall’s Internet voting experiment. The experiment, which was supported by St. Albert and Strathcona County, asked residents to test out online voting by voting for their favourite type of jellybean.
The winner was red with 202 of 497 votes, said Laura Kennedy, Edmonton’s director of elections.
“All those who were in support of red were very excited,” she said, although she had personally been rooting for black.
The election team found great public interest in online voting, she said, with more than 1,000 people registering to cast a ballot. The voting system also proved secure, standing up to cyber-attacks commissioned from the security firm Seccuris as well as unsolicited hacking attempts from the public.
The report recommends that Edmonton go ahead with an online voting option for this fall’s municipal election, subject to required changes to the Local Authorities Election Act.
St. Albert Mayor Nolan Crouse suspects that this city’s councillors will support that recommendation when the report came to them.
“You can use your Visa online. You can do a gazillion other things online. You should be able to vote online,” he said.
The vote itself took place from Oct. 22 to Nov. 2, 2012. Registrants were asked to vote in favour of one of four jellybean colours – black, green, red or yellow – and to take an exit survey on the election process.
Ballots were then secured by a system of seven electronic keys, at least four of which had to be present in order to open the ballot box.
About 73 per cent of participants said it was very easy to vote in the election, the survey found, with 77 per cent saying they had high to very high confidence in the system’s security. About 91 per cent said they would likely vote online in a real election given a chance.
Voters did raise concerns about forgetting passwords due to the long time between registration and voting, Kennedy said, and some voters tried to register multiple times.
“Mickey Mouse tried to register, too,” she said.
Monitors spotted and rejected many of these fakes before the election, Kennedy said. Future polls will have more stringent identification requirements, and will better publicize the consequences of voter fraud, which include six months in jail and a $10,000 fine.
An evaluation of the election’s voting system by Seccuris found that it would have “robust security” during an election, given a few tweaks, such as actually using its encryption and audit logs (those options were not activated for the jellybean vote).
Municipalities and the province are both enthusiastic about this project, Crouse said, so he expected the province to make the necessary legal changes to allow for online votes soon. If they do proceed, these online ballots will only be available prior to election day, he noted, and won’t replace any of the regular methods of voting.
The province has agreed to pay for this fall’s online vote should it happen in St. Albert, said Chris Belke, St. Albert’s chief legislative officer. It would ordinarily cost about $100,000.
“It is a short time frame,” he noted, as the election is less than a year away. But he’s confident the city can put in place the contracts and computers it would need.
“We’ve been working on this since the last election finished,” he said.
St. Albert council will be asked to vote on the report’s recommendation near the end of February, Belke said.
The report goes before Edmonton city council on Jan. 23. It can be found in the agenda package for that meeting available on the City of Edmonton’s website.