It gives the power to lift that arbitrary legal ban to Ontario's unelected and unaccountable Chief Electoral Officer, Greg Essensa
We are troubled that Mr. Essensa
shows no real interest in acting boldly and expeditiously to lift that ban.
In a two-part, 271-page report to the legislature tabled Monday, chief electoral officer Greg Essensa said it's time to embrace technological changes in order to encourage more people to vote.
"Voter participation in the electoral process is declining.
In the 2011 general election, for the first time, voter participation dropped below 50 per cent, setting a record low for voter turnout in Ontario," wrote Essensa
"We need to identify and remove barriers in our processes and procedures that may discourage people from voting."
Essensa said his weighty study, "Alternative Voting Technologies Report," will serve as "the framework that we will employ as we move forward on our principled approach to innovation."
But there are security and technological challenges to online or telephone voting, he
concluded after looking at experiences in Australia, Estonia, the U.S., Britain and various Canadian municipalities.
There is "the need for a two-step authentication process, given the lack of a government-issued ID card or digital authentication certificate."
Essensa said for a pilot project in a by-election, which would cost about $1.75 million, voters could use a driver's licence as identification.
"While verifying a user's identity using this form of identification is the best means currently available, it has a direct impact on voters who cannot obtain a driver's licence," he
Despite the need for change, Essensa
noted that the city of Edmonton's examination of online voting found there is "no conclusive evidence that shows introducing Internet voting will have a positive impact on turnout ... Internet voting will not fix the problem of voter turnout decline completely."
And now that Ontario's chief electoral officer, Greg Essensa, has tabled a 271-page report recommending the embrace of technology, it's clear that the modernization of voting is long overdue.
A radical concept, this is not.
If Ontarians can safely execute online banking transactions or health card renewals, then surely the act of voting must also catch up with the times.
The Ontario government should move quickly to implement the online voting recommended by Essensa
But as the Star's Robert Benzie reports, Essensa
believes that decline can be reversed to some extent through the ease of online voting.
"We need to identify and remove barriers in our processes and procedures that may discourage people from voting," Essensa
Anyone who has raced through gridlock to stand in a stuffy school auditorium for the pleasure of exercising their democratic right behind a cardboard voting station would agree.
The current system, the report says, is "no longer sustainable.
It notes increasing difficulties in the recruiting and training of the 70,000 people needed to work on election day, since fewer are willing or able to do the job.
Still, no one, including Essensa
, expects online voting will create a dramatic spike in participation rates.