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An Open Letter on Internet Voting to Guelph Voters

Dear Guelph Residents worried about Democracy:

Many thanks for your many emails expressing concerns about Guelph’s Council recommending a cessation to internet voting. I must admit I am one of the converted who now has concerns regarding Internet voting. In 2014, I supported online voting to get the vote out. Now, I am not certain that was an appropriate principle to embrace. I have had, I must say, my conversion on the road to Damascus (figuratively speaking)

In 2014, I did have concerns regarding security. However, I always believed it would improve not deteriorate over the years. We have however seen a regression in security as is apparent from Wiki Leaks, the Trump/Clinton feuds and the evidence of Russian hacking. Some people even point to allegations of voter fraud in Canada, in leadership races and even in our elections of the past. I don’t care to dwell on those. Rather,  I care to protect the future.

Of course, the Russians are not intending on hacking the Royal City. Still, the Ontario Ministry of Education EQAO was hacked by someone (not likely the Russians). This rendered the 2017/2018 EQAO online literacy test void.

If it can happen to a secure test, surely it can happen to our MPAC generated voters’ list – which is not, I am led to understand, any more secure. Similarly, as my brother, an Internet Expert working with Internet Security Issues each day stated, “There is no assurance that no one is standing beside a home computer offering 100 bucks to a person to vote a certain way. John A. Macdonald did it with beer, that’s why you are not allowed to go into a voting booth with another person today.”

I need to feel assured that voting is a level playing field and that only those who are entitled to vote actually do so. At this point, I am querying if the MPAC list identifies where a person actually lives and if that person is Canadian. If a person on the voters’ list is not, then MPAC inadvertently permits – or perhaps turns a blind eye – to the likelihood that offshore property owners can vote – something I did not think about until yesterday (Please note, I do differentiate this from non-Canadians residents voting as I do think an argument can be made for landed immigrants having the right to vote in our elections).

Re: accessibility and voting.

I have cut and pasted the following from information provided to me by another source:

“I wish to provide the following reassurances, as outlined in the Municipal Election Act, that the suspension of internet voting does not change the requirement of the City to meet the needs of electors through other avenues.”

https://www.ontario.ca/laws/statute/96m32#BK20

As the clerk mentioned at the meeting, he has a statutory obligation under the MEA to provide voting options for electors with disabilities.

“Moreover, the MEA includes a requirement for polling stations to be situated in any institution with more than 20 beds and any retirement home with more than 50 beds. In addition, election officials are empowered both to attend to a disabled elector within their room at a retirement home or an institution or, to visit their private residence in order to allow them to vote.”

In closing, this was a very difficult decision and one in which I weighed populism versus principles and protecting democracy. A superficial response is to permit a voting system with the potential for significant error to remain and perhaps be expanded.

Note too that this is not about massive voter fraud being committed by an overwhelming number of residents. I do not believe our voters are extreme practitioners of fraud any more than I am a suppressor of votes, as has been alleged by some. (In fact, I believe in mandatory voting – such as occurs in Australia – which, I believe, renders the argument for internet voting null and void.)

This issue is not about who should vote, it is about how we should vote.
For the time being, I believe that paper is the best protection against bad voter lists and cyber threats.

Thank you for your email,

Sincerely,
Phil Allt,
Ward 3 Councillor
City of Guelph