Here's a stupid idea. I mean that.
One would think with the robocall saga still more or less unsolved that opening up our electoral process to more technological tinkering would be immediately written off, but here we are, and the City of Guelph seems to want to make voting for the people that govern with us as easy as voting for the next American Idol, or determining what other celebrity or trend is "hot or not."
As you'll read in the press release below, the justification is that 48 per cent of respondents in a recent telephone survey said that they were more likely to vote in the municipal election if online voting was an option. Let's be clear, this was a survey of 600 people, and that was 600 people who stayed on the line when they found out it was a telephone survey calling and not someone they were acquainted with. To that end, not even a real majority of people said that they would vote if online voting were an option, 48 per cent said that they were "more likely" to vote. It's like saying that if the Canadian dollar is at parity with the American dollar, one is more likely to go cross-border shopping, not that they definitely will.
I think there's an over-emphasis to make voting easier and more convenient, as in treating it like any other service industry, "have it your way, right away." But voting isn't a service we offer, it's a responsibility we have. A responsibility we're owed. Something about online voting makes the whole thing feel cheap and easy, there's no weight to it when you choose your government with the click of a mouse while sitting at the kitchen table in your pajamas on a tablet. You can get your groceries online, watch movies online, order books, furniture, clothing and just about anything else you need via the internet, you can even work from home now if you want to. Is it so much to ask that you leave your house just one time to cast your vote? I don't think so.
I suppose it's worth remembering that this isn't an actual vote or anything consequential, this is a dialogue that's being opened. The city's press release is below if you want more details:
Guelph, On, July 5, 2013 – On July 16, the City’s Governance Committee will consider using remote Internet voting as an optional alternative to paper ballots at voting places, during the advance voting period in the 2014 municipal election.
“The City is exploring ways municipal voting can be more convenient and accessible to Guelph voters,” said City Clerk, Blair Labelle. "Academic and best practices research confirms Internet voting—compared to vote-by-mail and telephone voting—offers the greatest benefits and poses the least amount of risk.”
Guelph residents also support the use of Internet voting, according to a public opinion survey commissioned by the City last month. The findings from 600 telephone interviews conducted by Oraclepoll Research Ltd. reveal a greater number of Guelph electors are more likely to vote using Internet voting (48 per cent) if offered by the City, when compared to traditional paper ballots (40 per cent).
Remote Internet voting, as recommended in a staff report by the City Clerk’s Office, will not replace the traditional method of casting a paper ballot at a local voting place. If the report’s recommendations are approved, Guelph voters can choose to cast their electronic ballot online from a computer, tablet or smartphone of their choice or by paper ballot at a voting place during the advance voting period. Internet voting will not be offered on voting day—Monday, October 27, 2014.
Use of Internet voting is becoming more common in Ontario municipalities. More than 100 Ontario cities will consider the use of Internet voting as either a primary or complementary voting method in the 2014 municipal election.
To submit your written comments or to speak to the Governance Committee on this topic, contact the City Clerk’s Office at 519-837-5603 or firstname.lastname@example.org by July 12, at 9 a.m.
If approved by the Governance Committee, this matter will be added to the City Council agenda for consideration on Monday, July 29.
Read more information.