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Electoral Insight - Technology in the electoral process

Electoral Insight – June 2000

Chief Electoral Officer's Message
Technology in the Electoral Process

Jean-Pierre Kingsley
Jean-Pierre Kingsley
Chief Electoral Officer of Canada

New technology has already made possible significant advances in electoral systems around the world, and many more improvements are on the horizon. The attraction here is not technology for technology's sake. The real aim is to reduce the cost of elections to taxpayers, increase access to and participation in the electoral process, and make election financing more transparent.

In my view, we should also develop greater expertise with technology if we want the electoral process to remain relevant to young Canadians for whom technology is an accustomed and natural tool. Today's young people, aged 18 to 24, are the age group that participates least in voting at the federal level. This group should, in fact, have a higher participation rate, since government decisions will have as great an impact on them and their future as on other electors.

Elections Canada has now computerized virtually all of its functions, except the act of voting and the counting of the votes. One major technological advance is the National Register of Electors, a database of Canadians qualified to vote, which is used to produce the preliminary lists of electors for federal electoral events and to assist the production of lists for provincial, territorial, municipal and school board elections, when requested. Elections Canada is also a leader in the use of geographic information systems technology and the production of digitized electoral maps. Developments in georeferencing and geo-coding will enable us to identify each elector's address on a national digital road network, placing it in the correct electoral district and polling division.

Technology serves us in other ways too, the most visible being electoral Web sites with extensive information about access to the electoral system, electoral legislation, and the financial reports of political parties and candidates. Canadian media benefit greatly from the accrued availability of the data. Moreover, the proportion of Canadians with access to the Internet has grown dramatically and will likely continue to do so.

This third edition of Electoral Insight explores various aspects of the present use and future potential of technology in elections. It includes information about the feasibility of electronic voting in Canada, the potential impacts of electoral advertising on the Internet and political party Web sites, and a guide to the location and contents of the many electoral agency Web sites. We have also looked to other jurisdictions for insight, as in the article about the questions facing the U.S. Federal Electoral Commission as it reviews the rules for campaigning on the Internet and another regarding Quebec's experience with a permanent list of electors.

As always, I trust the articles in this edition will encourage discussion. I welcome your comments and suggestions for new topics to explore.

Jean-Pierre Kingsley


The opinions expressed are those of the authors; they do not necessarily reflect those of the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada.