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Editorial: Online election ballots are a risky proposal

Online voting may bring rewards in higher turnout, but it also brings risks in fraud
The District of North Vancouver wants B.C. to consider online voting in municipal elections. This may bring rewards in higher turnout but it also brings risks. | Marharyta Marko / iStock / Getty Images Plus

With only 22 per cent voter turnout in the last election, District of North Vancouver council members are asking the province to consider allowing online voting in municipal elections.

We see the appeal. Our turnouts are abysmally low and so much else in our lives is done online now, including interactions with government like paying our taxes, booking vaccinations and making legal declarations.

And the easier we make it to vote, the more likely people are to do it.

But there are foreseeable risks.

As anyone with an email address can attest, online fraud attempts are a daily occurrence.

When people cast their ballots online, what assurances are there that they are voting free of undue influence?

If an election’s results are disputed, how do we scrutinize the numbers with the same confidence we would with paper ballots? In 2018, West Vancouver’s mayoral race faced judicial recount in which every single ballot was pulled, examined and recounted.

We are open to re-examining how e-voting might work in B.C., particularly if any provincial study into the matter includes a sharp focus on how those risks can be mitigated.

Getting informed and voting is a civic responsibility. Anonymous paper ballots behind a cardboard privacy screen in an elementary school gym may be a bit old fashioned, but they are backstops that ensure the legitimacy of both the election process and final results.

If we are thinking about ditching the gym for higher online turnouts, then we must proceed with extreme caution.

What are your thoughts? Send us a letter via email by clicking here or post a comment below.