FAQ: Online voting in Canada: What's the status?

Would you be more likely to vote if you could do it at home or at work?

Elections Canada hoping to test web voting in 2013

A voter enters a polling station in Cremona, Alta., in the 2008 federal election. Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)

Would you be more likely to vote if you could do it at home or at work?

It's a common question, and one that's been on a lot of minds since voter turnout hit an all-time low in the last federal election in 2008.

When only 58.8 per cent of eligible Canadians cast their ballots that year, Elections Canada started working on a strategy to get more people to the polls.

Among their suggestions? That Canada eventually allow voting on the internet.

Will we ever have online voting in Canada?

Many municipalities already do. The city of Stratford, Ont., even held a completely paperless election in 2010. Residents cast their ballots by phone, via the Internet and in electronic polling booths.

Voter turnout increased by two per cent.

Elections Canada hopes to conduct an online test run during a federal by-election, likely after March 2013.

Why not earlier?

An Elections Canada official demonstrates an assistive voting device at an advance voting polling station in Winnipeg, November 23, 2010. Among Elections Canada's other 2009 recommendations was the implementation of electronic voting booths for persons with disabilities. (John Woods/Canadian Press)

The Elections Act gives Elections Canada the authority to conduct tests with electronic voting — but only with the permission of Parliament.

In September, chief electoral officer Marc Mayrand testified about Elections Canada’s efforts to test electronic polling booths, and an eventual move into online voting, at the Senate committee on legal and constitutional affairs.

Senators were receptive to the idea of electronic polling booths, particularly in how they could be used to assist people with disabilities, but were cool to online ballots.

Conservative Senator Don Plett specifically told Mayrand he "certainly would not support internet voting at this time."

What are some of the concerns people have about voting online?

Opponents of online voting often say the potential for security breaches outweighs the potential conveniences of online voting.

Others question whether it’s possible to conduct a truly secret vote online.

What are areas with online voting doing to ensure security?

Eligible voters in Stratford received personal identification numbers they could then use to gain access to the online voting site.

According to an information sheet on the city website, the PINs could only be traced to determine whether a person had voted. How they voted couldn’t be traced.

Have there ever been problems with online voting?

Yes. An online voting system used during the 2010 Ontario municipal elections experienced problems on election day.

The town of Arnprior, Ont., was forced to extend its voting period by another day to ensure that electors who wanted to vote were able to do so.

And the original Stratford — Stratford, England, that is — had to throw out the online voting results of a 2007 local council election after a series of technical problems.

Can Canadians currently vote without going to a polling station?

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper places his advanced election ballot in a mailbox in Ottawa in the 2006 federal election. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

Canadians can vote at their returning office before election day or by mail with a special ballot.

In order to do so, you must register with Elections Canada by April 26.