The B.C. government announced Thursday (Aug. 9) that it has officially requested that the chief electoral officer convene an independent panel to examine the potential for using Internet voting in the province.
The panel will review the best practices for Internet voting – in both local and provincial contexts – and identify any possible technological or logistical barriers.
Following the implementation of mail-in voting at last year’s municipal elections in Whistler, “anything to expand the opportunity to vote is a good thing,” says Whistler Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden.
Whistler saw a jump in voter turnout of 20 per cent over the last municipal election in 2008, and of the nearly 4,000 that voted in last year’s election, 397 were mail-in ballots, according to the chief electoral officer for the RMOW.
“People are very much interested in the electoral process here in Whistler,” Wilhelm-Morden noted, adding that the time of year when municipal elections are held often coincides with people being away, so Internet voting would make the process more accessible.
Sue Chappel agrees.
The Whistler homeowner and voter who resides in Vancouver, says she believes technology offers the hope of accessibility to our basic democratic right to vote.
“Online voting really opens it up and engages everybody in a more accessible way,” she said.
During the last election, Chappel, owner of the vacation rental website, Allura Direct, was one of several people in Vancouver who collected and drove up mail-in voting packages that otherwise would not have made it in time.
In fact, more than 100 of the mail-in ballots were delivered by hand.
And although she commented on the “cumbersome nature” of the mail-in ballots, Chappel stressed that this was not a negative reflection as it was the first time it occurred and there were bound to be growing pains.
“I think it was extraordinary,” she said on mail-in voting, “and it was fabulous for not only people owning property and not living in Whistler, but right across the province as well.
“I think the first time you do anything on that scale and with that kind of significance... the first time it happens will always bring things to light that you never anticipated before.”
Chappel says she thinks Whistler took an amazing step forward in bringing in mail-in voting and says she believes in the potential for Internet voting.
“There’s thousands and thousands of people who have a huge emotional investment in Whistler,” she said. “Mail-in voting was an extraordinary way to bring those people back in the community and welcome them back in as stakeholders. Even though they don’t live there full-time, their hearts are nonetheless there.”
She is one of those people.
“I wish I could live there, but I can’t,” she said, “so I was really grateful and excited about the opportunity to vote and I know a lot of other people were too.”
Chappel commented that technology is really bringing the world together and that Internet voting is a natural and important step forward.
And as for concerns about fraud in Internet voting, Wilhelm-Morden points out that so much business is done over the Internet these days, “it would seem to me that there ought to be a way to protect against fraud.”
Adds Chappel: “We can move our life savings online – I can’t see why we can’t do something on the election front too.”