Online voting gets tepid thumbs up at UBCM

Call for modernization for 2018 elections narrowly passes amid fears over e-voting privacy, manipulation

B.C. municipal leaders voted by a slim margin Wednesday to urge the province to enable online voting in time for the 2018 local elections.

The resolution from Osoyoos was passed by 51 per cent of delegates at the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention in an electronic vote after it had initially been declared defeated in a show of hands.

Advocates say the convenience of online voting could boost the dismal turnout of municipal elections and engage many more young people.

Vancouver Coun. Andrea Reimer said no municipality would be forced to adopt online voting, the aim is merely to make it an available option for communities and individuals that want it.

But Saanich Coun. Vic Derman warned there’s no way to guarantee an online voter is casting their ballot in privacy, without someone else directing or manipulating them, possibly buying their vote.

“It does affect one’s privacy of vote that should take place behind a screen at a ballot box,” said Lorne Lewis, a Sunshine Coast Regional District director. He said it’s wrong “to put people in a situation where they can be badgered about their vote.”

The close vote suggests the issue is having increasing trouble gaining traction.

A similar UBCM motion in 2011 passed by a two-to-one margin.

Since then, an independent panel struck by the provincial government concluded last year that the risks outweigh the benefits, and recommended that any move to online voting be limited to voters with specific accessibility challenges.

That report by B.C.’s chief electoral officer also found no evidence of a significant increase in voter turnout in other jurisdictions that have adopted online voting.

Reimer isn’t concerned about the close vote and said online voting for B.C. mayors and councils is inevitable.

“The only question is when and how far behind other jurisdictions we’ll be when we get to that point.”