Nova Scotia

Halifax prepares for online voting

The Halifax Regional Municipality is getting ready to let voters cast a ballot online for the first time.

The PIN is in the mail.

The Halifax Regional Municipality is getting ready to let voters cast a ballot online or by phone for the first time.

Municipal officials demonstrated the electronic voting process Thursday at City Hall. Step-by-step instructions are on the HRM website. A mailout containing a Personal Identification Number is going out next week to people on the voters list.

Project manager Cathy Mellet said the PIN is the "master access" to the ballot, giving the voter the list of candidates in that person's area.

Besides the PIN, voters have to input their date of birth. Then they can make their choices.

E-voting is new to the municipality. This system, designed by Dartmouth-based Intelivote Systems Inc., has been used in Ontario and the United Kingdom.

Company president Dean Smith said the system has been set up to ensure privacy and there are measures to prevent anyone from hacking it.

"Once the information is stored, it's encrypted in our ballot box, if you will," he said.

More than one person can use the same computer. Officials say there is no way to know how someone voted because the PIN and ballot are separated once the ballot is cast.

Voter turnout was only 36 per cent in the 2000 municipal and school board election. It climbed to 47 per cent in 2004, when a plebiscite on Sunday shopping was held at the same time.

This time, municipal officials hope the e-voting system will help them reach the 50 per cent mark.

"This is an opportunity to engage voters, especially young voters," said Mellet.

Electronic voting will be available Oct. 4-6 in an advance poll. Voters will still be able to cast a paper ballot on election day, Oct. 18.