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Let them vote online: Reimer

Online voting would be simpler at civic election time, a Coquitlam city councillor says. - BLACK PRESS FILE PHOTO
Online voting would be simpler at civic election time, a Coquitlam city councillor says.
— image credit: BLACK PRESS FILE PHOTO

It would be easier to have voters choose their politicians with the click of a mouse from the comfort of their homes rather than by filling in a paper ballot at a polling station, says a Coquitlam city councillor.

Coun. Linda Reimer is pressing to have civic voting brought online — making it convenient for residents to vote from home, at work or by a mobile device and, possibly, boosting voter turnout.

Reimer, who introduced a notice of motion on the issue at Monday’s Coquitlam city council meeting, cited 2008 municipal election results showing Coquitlam’s turnout 13 points lower than the provincial average.

And in last year’s byelection to replace Fin Donnelly (now MP for New Westminster-Coquitlam), only 7.6% of eligible voters filled out a ballot.

Reimer also commented on Surrey and Vancouver’s recent push to have e-voting for this November’s race.

“I want to add our voice to Surrey and Vancouver,” she told The Tri-City News after the council meeting, noting she has spoken with Vancouver Coun. Andrea Reimer (no relation) who is calling for an online voting pilot project in B.C.’s largest city.

Reimer’s motion, to be debated at the next city council meeting, asks for the provincial government to pass legislation in the next sitting of the legislature to allow for online voting. It also asks Victoria to source online voting machine providers and to work with municipalities to install them by this fall’s or the 2014 election.

If approved, copies of Reimer’s motion would be sent to other B.C. municipalities for consideration. (Calls to the mayors of Port Coquitlam and Port Moody for comment were not immediately returned).

Reimer noted the BC Liberal Party will be using online and telephone voting for its upcoming leadership contest.

E-voting is nothing new in Canada; it has been used by municipalities in Alberta (with the VOTEX system, www.votex.ca) and Ontario (Intelivote, www.intelivote.com), although there have been technical difficulties. In 2008, Halifax residents voted online using their birth date and a PIN mailed to their homes.

A spokesperson with B.C.’s Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development said e-voting can’t be done in time for this year’s civic election — even as a pilot project. 

“Such a proposal would require substantial policy analysis as well as legislative changes,” Marika Glickman wrote in an email to The Tri-City News Tuesday. “Key issues to be considered would include security of the ballot and public confidence in electronic voting.”

Glickman added: “Ensuring the integrity and accuracy of the elections process and results is essential to maintaining public confidence in elected officials. We are not at the point where electronic voting can be used for the upcoming local government elections.”

But she said if the Union of BC Municipalities sets online voting as a priority, “we are open to examining whether e-voting is a viable option for future local government elections, beyond 2011.”

At the federal level, Elections Canada plans to test e-voting by 2013.

Municipal elections will be held across B.C. this year on Saturday, Nov. 19.

jwarren@tricitynews.com

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