Online Voting for Municipal Elections

Subject Governance
Year 2021
Status Defeated
Sponsor - Mover Lethbridge, City of
Sponsor - Seconder St. Albert, City of
Active Clauses

IT IS THEREFORE RESOLVED THAT the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association enter into discussions with the Government of Alberta and advocate for the necessary legislative changes to the Local Authorities Election Act to permit secure online voting. 

Whereas Clauses

WHEREAS online voting, as an option, could be deemed as a convenience by many voters, with the potential to increase voter participation; 

WHEREAS the technology now exists to provide secure and auditable online voting processes; 

WHEREAS the general population is increasingly embracing the use of technology for a wide variety of uses; 

WHEREAS the use of online voting would provide opportunities for efficiencies and lower costs for municipalities by reducing the number of polling stations and associated staffing; and 

WHEREAS voters could participate in a barrier-free election process, unimpeded by mobility challenges, parking issues, traffic jams, line-ups to vote, ballot shortages or adverse weather.

Resolution Background

Online voting has long been considered high risk because internet systems and databases can be hacked. As technology advances and the need for online voting becomes more appealing, exploring online voting for Alberta could increase voter turnout and enable voters who are not living within their riding or close to a polling station to vote. Online voting would allow for military and overseas residents, Indigenous voters, students studying outside of their riding, the elderly and those with disabilities to easily vote. In addition, with the COVID-19 pandemic as a prime example of potential scenarios that prohibit the ability to gather in large groups, those who do not wish to leave their homes and be in a public space would be enabled to vote. This would also be very appealing to the younger generations or those with a busy life-work schedule to vote from the comfort of their computers. The issue of online voting has been discussed extensively around the world and tried in a few jurisdictions in Canada and various other countries. Although the option of online voting is fairly new, we believe there are now companies that have developed safe technologies that would support effective and transparent elections in Alberta.

 Advantages of online voting include but are not limited to: 
•    Convenience and accessibility for all voters. Voters do not need to travel to polling stations within defined periods or line up to register and vote;
•    Those with health or mobility restrictions can participate,
•    Lower cost of voting than traditional methods;
•    Potential to increase voter turnout;
•    Decreases the time spent tallying votes when automated electronically; 
•    Instant absentee ballot; and,
•    Avoids issue of a limited number of printed ballots (ballot shortages).

Disadvantages of online voting include but are not limited to:
•    Hacks or viruses being used to corrupt the results;
•    Potential to open the election process to cyber-terrorism, 
•    Identity theft or misrepresentation;
•    Technical difficulties such as server crashes;
•    Difficulty verifying voter identification; 
•    Internet connectivity in rural areas or limited access to the internet; and,
•    Limited understanding of how to online vote or distrust of the system.

We encourage the Alberta government to review and analyze the technology and tech companies that have been working diligently to address cybersecurity concerns for the implementation of the 2025 Alberta election. For example, some companies have developed blockchain as a security mechanism to ward off hackers online and decrease the risk of manual manipulation. Blockchain distributes data to several servers; therefore, if one server is hacked, it will signal the other servers that there has been a change. This significantly enhances the cybersecurity of online voting and protects voter personal information. There are fingerprint and facial recognition options that could be implemented as an additional security feature. 

We encourage and advocate for the support of Albertan companies that are developing technologies for online voting. Alberta could be a leading example for other jurisdictions of successful online voting. The ability to access online voting on home computers and mobile devices is now an available option and could be tested over the next four years to make it available for the 2025 Alberta municipal elections. In addition, there would need to be amendments to the Local Authorities Election Act to permit online voting.  Online voting is currently precluded by Alberta legislation. 

The Alberta Urban Municipalities Association would need to begin early discussions with the Alberta government to receive verification processes and begin changes to legislation for potential implementation of October 2025.