Editorial: Internet voting

It's only a matter of time before our right to vote in the province of British Columbia gets digitized along with everything else.

It’s the era of digital communication and only a matter of time before our democratic right to vote in the province of British Columbia gets digitized along with everything else.

Minister of Justice Shirley Bond’s announcement  to examine the potential of Internet voting in B.C.  may be met with trepidation, scepticsm and even outright opposition, but it’s not surprising given one can bank, buy and sell without having to leave the house thanks to the world wide web.

The obvious concern with Internet voting is security for the transmission of data. Exceptionally high protections will have to be in place but many consider the notion of Internet security to be a joke with the prevalence of hacker groups across the globe.

Electronics giant Sony fell victim to a massive cyberattack  last year that resulted in one of the biggest data breaches since the advent of the Internet with over 100 million accounts affected. The group that claimed responsibility said they did it for fun.

One of the arguments for Internet voting is that it has the potential to attract more voters to the democratic process. Voter turnout for all levels of government is appallingly low. According to Elections Canada, only 37.4 per cent of 18 to 24-year-olds voted at the 2008 general election. That means over 60 per cent of eligible young Canadians did not participate in selecting the country’s government. In the May 2009 provincial election, voter turnout in B.C. hit an all-time low with just 50 per cent of eligible voters bothering to vote.

As 93 per cent of British Columbians now have access to high-speed Internet, this best-case scenario of reinvigorating democracty is definitely appealing, but it’s not too far a stretch to imagine what the worst-case consequences could look like.

The Honourable Minister has requested that an independant panel look into the best practices  used by jurisdictions that have implemented online voting as well as how to address all potential security and privacy concerns. But modernizing the electoral process  could, alternatively, be accomplished through mandatory voting —  an option devoid of threats from hacker masterminds.

Australia has been using compulsory voting since 1924. Voter turnout is 95 percent of registered voters. The reason is simple: It’s the law.