A new report from Delvinia examines exit interviews from online voters in Markham, Ont. Plus, find out about the biggest area of concern for the town

E-voting gets almost unanimous praise, study finds

New data culled from Markham, Ont. voters could make a case for the introduction of Internet voting across all levels of government in Canada, according to a new report from user experience design firm Delvinia

The Toronto-based digital consultancy released the findings of its eDemocracy and Citizen Engagement report on Monday, which focused on the Town of Markham’s recent online voting initiatives. The municipality has offered online voting for its local elections since 2003.

The report, which surveyed online voters after they cast ballots in last year’s municipal elections, indicated that 99 per cent of online voters in Markham were satisfied with the voting process and would likely vote online in future municipal elections. The same amount of survey respondents also indicated they would prefer an online voting option for future provincial and federal elections.

“The significance of Markham’s decision to implement Internet voting is more than increasing voter turnout and accessibility, but also about paving the way for other governments to follow,” said Delvinia CEO Adam Froman.

Nicole Goodman, a PhD candidate at Carleton University who is researching Internet voting across the country, said that since the Town of Markham introduced online voting, more than 50 cities across Canada have followed suit.

“It’s reached about 1.8 million electors,” she said.

When it came to voter demographics, electors aged 45 to 54 were deemed the most likely group to make use of online voting, with the majority of users citing little concern for the safety of personal information and the impact of technology on their privacy.

But the study also found that online voting could help get the highly sought after youth vote out, as 40 per cent of young respondents (aged 18 to 24) that self-identify themselves as occasional or non-voters, were encouraged to vote because of the online ballot.

Users were also more likely to be non-immigrants with English as their first language.

In addition to exit survey data, Delvinia also polled candidates in Markham to get their feedback on the online voting process. The firm found that 92 per cent of candidates were either “completely” or “mostly” in favour of online voting, with 78 per cent reporting that the Internet voting option had a significant impact on campaign strategies and mobilization tactics.

For candidates, Goodman said, key political messages have to be established earlier on in the campaign cycle to account for the early voting.

Andrew Brouwer, deputy clerk at the Town of Markham, said that other municipalities looking to implement online voting should review the risks and security concerns as earlier as possible. This includes an extensive project plan that compares the voting platforms that are available from a variety of technology providers currently specializing in e-voting software.

“Understand the risk profile and move forward that way,” he said.

Froman said that one of the biggest technical issues for the Town of Markham was keeping the voters list updated prior to Election Day.

“What you didn’t want to happen was somebody to vote online and then vote again at the polls,” he said.

To solve this, the municipality limited online ballot casting to the early voting period, which gave city staff 24 to 48 hours to update their master lists.

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