toronto votes

Should Toronto introduce online voting?

Mayoral candidate Rocco Rossi digressed from his much-important 'pool reform' agenda to talk about voter turnout and term limits today.

Rossi vowed to implement phone and Internet voting by the next municipal election to take on voter apathy. Of course, this would placate those who are lazy in a rather problematic way -- it really doesn't take that much effort to get to a polling station -- but it would offer a solution for Torontonians with limited mobility, and it seems viable enough considering that other municipalities have successfully implemented such systems.

Markham introduced online voting in 2003 and was happy enough with the results to use it again in 2006. According to the city's official website, online voting "contributed to an overall 2006 voter turnout of 37.6 per cent, well above the typical turnout of 28 per cent for a municipal election" and "88 per cent of online voters in 2006 [cited] 'convenience' as their primary reason for voting online."

But what about the cost?

According to Rossi, "on a cost per vote basis, internet and telephone voting systems are cheaper than traditional ballots in the long run. Printing of paper ballots, manual counting, and other features which add perpetual expenses to running an election could be scaled back as more voters use the electronic system."

Nevertheless, it'll certainly cost more than the $25,000 that Markham paid to get its program started in 2003. And despite Rossi's assurance that an online system would be cheaper, for the first few elections such a system was in use, there'd likely be a heavy cost increase before the traditional system could be safely scaled back.

Security would also be a concern, but when was the last time you shied away from buying something with your credit card online due to security concerns?

It's not really a hard argument to make that the time has come for our voting system to reflect not just the ubiquity of the internet, but the state of modern technology in general. Municipal politics are plagued by voter apathy, and if Markham's numbers can be used as an example, online voting is one way this could be addressed.

What do you think? Is it even a legitimate question or is it just plain obvious?

With notes from Robyn Urback. Photo by Bensonkua of the blogTO Flickr pool.


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