Online voting available in many municipalities, just not Toronto

Dozens of municipalities (in orange) are allowing constituents to vote online in this year’s municipal elections. Courtesy of Internet Voting Project. Dozens of municipalities (in orange) are allowing constituents to vote online in this year’s municipal elections. Courtesy of Internet Voting Project.

Krysten McCumber
Queen’s Park/City Hall Reporter

Many cities in Southern Ontario will use the option of online voting in Monday’s municipal elections, but Toronto won’t be one of them.

Electronic voting is a recent development in election services, trying to prompt people who don’t want to wait in line or don’t feel motivated to get out and vote on election days. It allows voters to verify their information online and cast their ballot from their city’s website.

There are high hopes that voter turnout will increase over the years with the ease and convenience of online voting, but that doesn’t mean voters will know who to vote for.

“I haven’t really been involved in the election in Toronto,” said Emmanuel Castanos, a second-year accounting student at Humber College. He said he will not be voting on Monday.

Proponents of electronic voting hope that disengaged citizens like Castanos may be encouraged to cast a vote with a simple online process. However, according to research done by Internet Voting Project, a project promoting online voting in 47 cities throughout Ontario, young people still don’t vote.

“When we look at online voting use overall in Canada we see that the big users are actually middle-aged,” research director at the Centre for e-Democracy Nicole Goodman said.

The centre’s research has led to the realization that while middle-aged and older people care about politics and want to vote, younger people, ranging in age from 18 to 30, don’t have the interest to go out to the polls or even use the online option when it’s available.

“If you’re not interested in politics, you’re not going to vote and online voting won’t change that,” Goodman said.

With just over half of Toronto residents voting in the 2010 municipal election, anticipation is high to see a number improve in the closely watched Oct. 27 election. How much electronic voting will boost participation remains to be seen. In cities that are participating in the electronic ballot, the issue many have is that security may not be adequate as the technique is still new.

“How can you make sure a person who’s voting is the right person?” CEO of Toronto Responsive Web Michael Sading said. “It’s not 100 per cent safe. Security is never absolutely safe.”

There have been issues in municipalities in the past but that hasn’t stopped cities from moving forward and making the option to vote more readily available.

“[Online voting] would be accessible to everyone though,” Castanos said.

Whether or not Toronto can expect access to electronic voting in 2018 is unclear, but Canada is moving forward with the approach, with or without its biggest city joining in.

“Canada has used internet voting in more binding municipal elections than anywhere else in the world,” Goodman said.