Thunder Bay residents could be turning to their telephones and computers to vote in next year’s municipal election.

City council is being asked to consider whether allowing for online voting during the advanced polling period would make the electoral process more accessible and convenient for people who can’t use the conventional ballot box. Those people include students attending school out of town, residents away on business, the disabled, or property owners who don’t live in Thunder Bay but having voting rights in the city.

"They’re ... denied their opportunity to vote because of their physical location," said John Hannam, Thunder Bay’s city clerk.

Hannam, who proposed the changes, has been pushing for the alternate method of voting for several years. It was rejected by council in 2010, after the proposal came too close to the Elections Act deadline.

Question of security

Hannam said he’s not worried about security breaches when it comes to online voting.

"People that say they're opposed to internet voting make a lot of claims as to what they think are the weaknesses of these systems," Hannam said.

"You can look at the hundreds of examples where internet voting has been used around the world, and not one system has been breached yet."

Online voting systems are tested and structured to prevent the system from going down during a power failure, a hacking attempt, or fraud, Hannam said in his proposal to council.

Thunder Bay’s use of online ballots wouldn’t be unprecedented in the province – in 2006 nearly two dozen Ontario municipalities allowed online voting, a number Hannam said he expects to quadruple by next year’s election.