Online access fails to boost overall voter turnout

In July, the Town of Markham in southern Ontario announced it was investing $25,000 in an online advanced voting initiative. The goal was to attract an additional number of eligible voters to November’s polls. However, following the municipal election evidence suggests the investment didn’t really pay off.

Preliminary information indicates that about 40,000 of Markham’s 150,000 eligible voters cast ballots in the election. That’s a 27 per cent voter turnout, which is about one per cent less than the historical average for the municipality. When the advanced e-voting initiative was launched, Markham officials said voter turnout usually averages between 28 to just more than 30 per cent.

As far as the advanced online polls were concerned, 7,200 people used the Web to cast a vote. Of that group, 25 per cent had not voted in the previous election.

Adam Froman, the president and managing director of applied research for Delvinia Interactive Inc., the company hired to educate voters and collect data on the online voting initiative, said that while overall voter turnout remained flat, the increase in the number of advanced voters showed people are interested in e-voting.

“Historically, Markham gets about 3,000 people who participate in advanced polls,” he said. “Overall, they had 10,000 [advanced] voters including those who voted online and at the polls. So, the number has increased three-fold in terms of advanced voting.”

According to preliminary data from the 3,600 surveys completed on the Internet voting site, 82 per cent of online voters cast their ballot from home, 13 per cent from work and just one per cent from a publicly accessible computer.

“Our preliminary data is showing a very favourable response to the experience of online voting as an alternative channel for the voting process,” he said, adding that 93 per cent of survey respondents indicated they would vote online in the future.

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