Online voting coming to Guelph

Guelph city councillors have voted 7 to 4 in favour of implementing online voting just in time for the 2014 municipal election.

Civic democracy will be just a click away in Guleph's 2014 municipal election

Guelph city councillors have voted 7 to 4 in favour of implementing online voting for the city's 2014 municipal election. (City of Guelph)

Guelph city councillor Cam Guthrie hopes online voting could boost the city's slack voter turnout by as much as 10 to 15 per cent in the advance polls when it is implemented in the 2014 municipal election.

"I believe if we see something like that, to me, it would feel like it was absolutely worth the trouble we're going through here to introduce all the new technology for voting," Guthrie told The Morning Edition host Craig Norris Tuesday.

City councillors voted 7 to 4 on Monday night in favour of online voting, a technology that will allow voters to cast their ballots from the comfort of their living rooms or home offices, rather than at a designated polling station in the city's 2014 election.

"People are looking for new ways to get engaged and I believe that municipalities should be looking at alternative methods of voting," Guthrie said.

Guthrie, who has been a long-time proponent of online voting for the City of Guelph, said that Guelph city staff paid an outside company to survey 600 people about which of three alternative means of voting would most likely compel them to cast their ballots. The list included telephone voting, a mail-in ballot and online voting.

"At the end of the day of the three, the one that came out at the top for those who were surveyed was the Internet voting," he said.

Guthrie said the system will cost anywhere between $50,000 and $90,000 to implement.

"We feel this is a reasonable amount to engage the voter," he said.

Most of Monday night's city council debate swirled around whether an online voting system would be secure, but Guthrie said he's confident the system will retain its integrity.

"The individual has to create their own login with their own security questions that they have to chose themselves. There is about a two- or three-step process they have to undertake to be able to vote at all."

Guthrie said that the system has been well-proven in other cities across Ontario. He said Guelph is by no means a trail blazer when it comes to online democracy.

"I believe there are almost 44 municipalities now that have either done this or are about to go this way," he said.

Cambridge has also voted in favour of implementing online voting in 2014.