Councillor votes to bring back idea of online ballots

Coun. Andrew Knack wants Edmontonians to be able to cast their votes from the their desktops. He plans to rally council support to bring back online voting for the next civic election.

Coun. Andrew Knack wants to encourage administration to make elections digital

Coun. Andrew Knack said he was encouraged by the results of online voting in Ontario, and wants Edmonton to reconsider the idea for the next election. (CBC )

Coun. Andrew Knack wants Edmontonians to be able to cast their votes from the their desktops. He plans to rally council support to bring back online voting for the next civic election.

The former city council rejected the idea in 2013 because of security concerns.

But Knack said recent online voting in several Ontario civic elections last month convinced him technology now exists to allow people to vote using their computers in a secure way.

“About a quarter of the population of Ontario, about 2.4 million people, had access to online voting in some capacity or another. We’ve seen the results were very good,” Knack said.

Knack points to the PC and Alberta NDP leadership races as other examples of successful online voting.

“I think it’s just becoming more accepted as we become more of an online society.”

And switching to an online system could make it easier to vote for some people – like seniors – who may have difficulty making it to the polling station, Knack said. 

“A lot of the seniors residences no longer had a polling station,” Knack said. “One of the things I felt is that if you pursue this you bring a great opportunity to bring in a mobile polling station into these residences.”

He said online tools will also help people with accessibility issues, since they come with audio cues for the hearing impaired and people can use the web from their own homes.

He said he would like to see online voting brought in to supplement traditional voting methods, not replace them. 

Fear of security breach

Edmonton’s election office tested the idea in 2012 by running a mock vote for the best flavour of jelly bean. They discovered some people may have been able to cast their ballot twice, raising concerns about fraud.

“There was the fear that there could be a security breach,” Knack said.

“There's always going to be a threat of fraud no matter how you vote – whether it's online, whether it's in person – there's always a risk there. It's doing what you need to do to mitigate those risks.”

Knack asked for a report on the city’s research into online voting to-date in Wednesday’s council meeting. He hopes to convince other councillors to show their support for the idea as well. But, he said, the decision isn’t up to council – it’s up to Edmonton elections staff.

“In fact, even if we don't want online voting, and they feel they have the proper measures in place and the province allows it – which is the big trigger – then they could do it without our permission.”

Laura Kennedy, director of elections and census, said the city has studied and researched the issue since 2012. She is looking forward to a new report from the University of Toronto about viability of internet voting across Canada.

She plans to present the findings of that report to the city's executive committee in late February. Knack hopes a letter of support from council will speed up the move toward online polls.


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