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A Comparative Assessment of Electronic Voting

Executive Summary

In the past decade various types of electronic voting, particularly Internet voting, have won considerable attention as possible additional voting methods that promise to make the electoral process simpler and more efficient for political parties, candidates, election administration, and most importantly, for electors. Many types of Internet or remote voting have been implemented with varying degrees of success. While some systems have worked well, pilots of prototypes in other jurisdictions have been cancelled, some even before they were introduced, because of concerns or issues relating to security, technical reliability and privacy. The variable results of these projects highlight that there are important risks as well as benefits associated with Internet voting, and both should be weighed when considering including electronic voting as a method of voting in elections.

The models that enjoy success are effective because they have been tailored to meet the specific needs of a particular jurisdiction. The lesson behind these success stories for Canada is that no specific model should be directly copied for use here, although specific features of them may be. The development of an electronic voting model should be based on the requirements of the electoral process as well as the specific needs of electors and other affected parties. Compared to other countries where Internet voting has been trialled or implemented more fully, there appears to be sufficient accessibility and public support in Canada to introduce that method. Furthermore, the basis for a legal framework that supports Internet voting and a government mandate to conduct Internet voting research are important facilitating factors.

Various measures need to be considered before the next steps are taken for implementing Internet voting in Canada. These could include the gathering of additional data to measure public attitudes and those of political parties and candidates towards electronic voting. Consideration should also be given to establishing clear requirements that an additional method of voting would fulfill, as well as creating and consulting with an interdisciplinary committee of experts. Before selecting a type of software and specific system design features to suit Canada and drafting an electronic voting proposal to present before Parliament (including policies and procedures), further research should be conducted on various Internet voting models. This would lay the groundwork for designing an initial small-scale trial and then progressively increasing the number of electors who vote electronically with each additional trial. These are important aspects of the process which, based on the experiences of other jurisdictions and a review of the academic literature, appear to be both relevant and necessary toward creating a successful framework upon which an electronic voting model can be effectively developed in Canada.

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