Elections Ontario Report on Internet Voting A Slap in the Face

Internet Voting

Internet VotingTORONTO – “Elections Ontario now only offers vague plans of yet more study with no end in sight. A tremendous impending opportunity will again unfairly be wasted,” said David Lepofsky, chair of the non-partisan AODA Alliance. “Four upcoming Ontario by-elections later this year would provide a great time to test these voting options, using technology already used in 59 municipalities in Ontario and Nova Scotia.”

Elections Ontario Report on Telephone and Internet Voting is A Slap in the Face to Voters with Disabilities – Elections Ontario Refuses to Now Use Its Authority To Test Telephone and/or Internet Voting in By-Elections, Despite Their Use in 59 Municipalities in Ontario and Nova Scotia and No Findings that They Were Hacked or Unreliable.

Internet Voting Report

On June 24, 2013, Elections Ontario finally tabled a long-awaited Report on telephone and internet voting, three years in the making, with the Ontario Legislature. This Report is a huge slap in the face of voters with disabilities.

Telephone and internet voting would help many voters with disabilities overcome unfair barriers they still too often face when trying to exercise their fundamental constitutional right to vote in provincial elections. The non-partisan AODA Alliance has campaigned for telephone and internet voting for several years.

The AODA Alliance makes public its detailed analysis of the Elections Ontario  Report. It concludes that skimmed quickly, the Elections Ontario Report makes it sound like Elections Ontario is high on telephone and internet voting, and just has some kinks to work out. Yet reading it more carefully, this Report is a formula for more delay and foot-dragging.

Elections Ontario is in effect refusing to test telephone and internet voting in this year’s upcoming four Ontario by-elections. This flies in the face of Elections Ontario’s written commitment to voters with disabilities on December 3, 2010 that it planned to be ready to test telephone and internet voting by 2012. For Elections Ontario’s commitment to be ready to test telephone and internet voting in a 2012 by-election, visit www.aodaalliance.org

It was tenacious pressure from the disability community in support of telephone and internet voting that led the Ontario Legislature to order Elections Ontario to conduct this study of telephone and internet voting, with its prime focus on overcoming barriers to voting that too many voters with disabilities face. Yet the report largely plays down and marginalizes the needs of voters with disabilities. Its prime focus is instead on questions of whether telephone and internet voting would increase voter turnout, and be more convenient for all voters.

As a result of this Report, over one million Ontario voters with disabilities must continue suffering under Ontario’s Elections Act. It imposes an unjustified total ban on telephone and internet voting, technology that can  make the voting process truly accessible. It gives the power to lift that arbitrary legal ban to Ontario’s unelected and unaccountable Chief Electoral Officer, Greg Essensa. We are troubled that Mr. Essensa  shows no real interest in acting boldly and expeditiously to lift that ban.

In 2010, the AODA Alliance led the fight for amendments to Ontario’s Elections Act to provide for telephone and internet voting. We won a weak requirement that Elections Ontario prepare a report on this technology, though the Legislature gave Elections Ontario a leisurely three years to do so. Elections Ontario delayed, using every minute of that time. It produced a report this week that is a huge let-down.

In 2010 we also won an amendment to the Elections Act that lets Elections Ontario test telephone and internet voting in a by-election starting in 2012. Yet last year Elections Ontario unjustifiably refused to test these voting options in two Ontario by-elections. Its June 24, 2013 Report continues that unfair refusal.

* Give a three-page summary of the problems with Elections Ontario’s Report from a disability perspective;
* Give a more detailed nine-page analysis of the Report’s key findings; 
* Set out a June 25, 2013 Toronto Star article on this Report which makes the Report seem more supportive of telephone and internet voting than our analysis shows.
* Set out the Toronto Star’s June 26, 2013 editorial, calling for on-line voting in Ontario elections.

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