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JULY 31ST 2013 

Is Canada ready for online voting?

August 1 is by-election day where we live. There’s a big hue-and-cry about the fact that the government called the election in the middle of summer, resulting in forecasted participation rates as low as 20% amid allegations of voter suppression.

Do the math and here’s what you get:  1 in 5 voting age citizens across 5 ridings could determine the outcomes, and that could end up changing the government of the entire province where 14 million people live. What’s wrong with this picture?

Here’s the thing about a democracy…we usually get the government we deserve. Voting (or not) is the way we ensure that. And fewer and fewer of us are choosing to vote — especially those under 30.

Much has been written about why. It really comes down to cynicism and detachment, with comments like,  “all politicians are the same”, and “my vote doesn’t make a difference”. There are reasons why people feel this way and we need to fix that. But in the meantime, we need to keep voting like our lives depend on it. Certainly our democracy does.

So what do we do?

Estonia and Australia offer two contrasting solutions.

In Estonia, they have taken voting online. Now 25% of the citizens choose that option. Big surprise. It’s called fishing where the fish are…reaching digital natives where they live. There are huge technological challenges to protecting the integrity of a digital election, but really, we can’t solve them? Estonia did.

In Australia, they made it illegal not to vote. You get fined.

So what’s the right solution? Carrot or stick? Or something else? Our democracy depends on finding answers to these questions.  So tell us, how you would resolve this.



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