A glitch with an online voting system has delayed the results for many of Monday’s province-wide local elections and forced a number of municipalities across Ontario to extend voting hours through until Tuesday night.
More than 50 municipalities across the province experienced technical difficulties with their voting systems thanks to bandwidth issues and overwhelming traffic on the electronic voting company Dominion Voting Systems’ website.
The issue occurred around 6 p.m. Monday night with voters unsuccessfully attempting to cast their ballots online and through mobile devices.
A statement from Dominion Voting’s twitter page says the problem occurred because of “unauthorized action by a colocation provider supporting network connectivity, which should have supported limitless traffic but instead limited traffic for 90 minutes until resolution.” It assures that no security issues were involved and that the problem was fixed within those 90 minutes.
We regret that Ontario municipal customers and their voters experienced a serious slowdown in our Internet Voting service during today's election @6PM. The issue was resolved w/in 90 mins. We are working w affected localities to provide additional details for media/voters. 1/2
— Dominion Voting (@dominionvoting) October 23, 2018
Dominion Voting’s online election system is used by 51 municipalities across Ontario, with all experiencing the technical issue Monday evening. And voters across those municipalities were were not impressed by the glitch.
Comments on the Town of Bradford West Gwillimbury and City of Greater Sudbury Facebook pages read:
Moving to online voting
For many of the municipalities affected, including Bradford, this was the first election using online and phone voting and for others like the City of Pickering it was the first year offering online voting only, with no in-person polling stations.
In a press release Dominion Voting apologized for the issue saying “Dominion regrets the challenges that our load system issue posed for both election officials and voters alike in the elections.” Noting that it will work to ensure that the same problem doesn’t occur in future elections.
It also stated that its Toronto internet colocation provider placed an unauthorized limit on incoming voting traffic that as a tenth of the system’s needed bandwidth.
Responses from municipalities
The City of Greater Sudbury, similarly to Pickering had hired Dominion to conduct its first paperless ballot election, which according the Sudbury Star had some candidates questioning the effect the move would have for senior voters, and privacy even before election night.
And despite the apology some affected were still displeased with the issue, on Tuesday incumbent mayoral candidate for Sudbury, Brian Bigger told CBC that he was disgusted by the failure and is “demanding an explanation by the Sudbury senior staff who put this process in place and why there was no backup plan.”
To address the inaccessibility of the online voting system some municipalities such as the City of Kingston, simply extended voting for a couple hours on Monday, according to Global News.
However, overall more than a dozen municipalities including Sudbury, Waterloo, Owen Sound, Collingwood, Petawawa have declared emergencies under the Municipal Elections Act and will have voting available until Tuesday evening around 8 p.m. or later depending on each municipal government, with results being announced once voting closes.
Kingston city staff, which extended its voting until 9:15 p.m. Monday night, didn’t seem that unhappy with the decision to work with Dominion Voting for this election process. Deputy city clerk and assistant returning officer for Kingston, Janet Jaynes told ITWC that “The City of Kingston regrets the temporary technical issues that internet voters experienced,” however “the internet voting process worked very well and electors were able to cast their ballot in less than 15 minutes.”
Dominion Voting is a Toronto-based company that also provides its online voting services across the U.S.; it is one of three companies that manages more than 80 per cent of the electronic voting machines in the U.S., according to a New York Times report about the vulnerabilities of electronic voting systems in the upcoming midterm elections.
ITWC reached out to Dominion Voting to get its thoughts on how the technical issue affected the municipal elections across Ontario and possible future concerns but it did not respond by the time of publication.
As ITWC has previously reported Canadian election officials have long been weary of moving to online voting systems, though some municipalities have been testing it out in previous elections. Time will tell whether this glitch will change if and how some municipalities will use online voting in future elections, none of those we reached out to responded in time for publication.