Provincial election -- electronic voting not on horizon

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 In the original version of this story, published in the Sept. 17 edition of the Digby Courier, it incorrectly states that on day one of voting in the 2013 Nova Scotia provincial election there had been no votes cast for the NDP in the constituency of Yarmouth because the party had yet to register a candidate. In Nova Scotia voters can vote for a party even if there is no candidate and there is no way of knowing, in advance of the vote count on Oct. 8, how a voter has voted.

Digby County News

by Belle Hatfield

The woman leaving the voting booth was in no hurry. Having completed her civic responsibility, she was eager to share her reason for coming in to the returning office to exercise a new continuous voting option. As an immigrant, she said, it took her two-and a-half-years to become a Canadian citizen and thus gain the right to vote. She values the right because for a long time she lived in the country without that right. She says she just cannot understand why people don't vote.

"If you don't vote, how can you complain," she says on her way out the door.

It is the second day of continuous voting. At just after 10 a.m. on Wednesday morning, Sept. 11, 21 votes had been cast at the returning office in the constituency of Yarmouth.

 The NDP has yet to register a candidate for the riding. On Wednesday Elections Nova Scotia was reporting nine ridings in which there is not an NDP candidate. The Progressive Conservatives were unrepresented in five ridings. The Liberals have a full slate and there is one independent registered.Even without a candidate, voters can opt to write in a vote for a registered party.

Continuous voting is one of the changes Elections Nova Scotia has instituted since the last general election. During normal open hours, at any returning office, from now until election day, voters can cast their ballots. If they expect to be away from their riding through the election period, they can vote out of their district in any returning office. Arrangements have been made to accommodate the homeless, the acutely ill, the house-bound. Elections Nova Scotia is providing outreach to students and to First Nations. Never has more effort been put into providing voters with the opportunity to exercise their vote.

Except when it comes to electronic voting.

Electronic voting is gaining acceptance from segments of the voting public across Canada, but don’t look for it to come to a provincial or federal election in the near future.

Dana Doiron, Elections Nova Scotia’s director of policy and communications, says  it would require legislative amendment of the Elections Act to enable electronic voting. There appears to be little appetite for making those changes around the board table at the Election Commission of Nova Scotia, which provides advice to the province’s chief electoral officer on these matters.

In a recent report to Elections Nova Scotia, the commission acknowledged that “most would agree that online voting is consistent with our increasingly online society”

However, the commission concluded, “The basic questions of how to maintain the security, validity, and integrity of our elections has not yet, in our opinion, been satisfactorily answered. Until credible answers to these questions are available, and until functioning, transparent Internet and telephone voting systems have been demonstrated and proven, extreme caution and prudence is required.”

In 2009 just 58 per cent of eligible voters cast a ballot in the province's general election.

In the 2012 municipal elections, 15 of the province’s 54 municipal units conducted some form of electronic voting. Potentially, 65 per cent of the province’s electorate (including voters whose representatives were acclaimed) had the opportunity to vote electronically.

The returning office in Yarmouth is located at the north-west corner of John and Second streets, next to the Vanguard newspaper's offices.

 

Organizations: NDP, Progressive Conservatives, First Nations Election Commission of Nova Scotia

Geographic location: Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada

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