VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — Most British Columbians would like the option of casting their ballot online, but it seems politics is slowing down progress, according to a poll.
In an online study of 750 voters in the province, two-thirds of people say they want Elections BC to look into online voting for the next provincial election, and support crosses generational, geographical and even political boundaries.
Research Co. president Mario Canseco says it’s not the voters who are holding up the change.
“One of the issues that we have whenever we talk about electoral reform, whether it is finding out a way to elect our senators or whether we should switch to a different system, there’s always a political party that is dead-set against it,” he said. “We saw that at the federal level when the Conservatives did not want to carry on with any sort of electoral reform and the Liberals, frankly, didn’t either. So when you have that situation, it’s more complicated for something like this to be done.”
Most recently, the BC Liberals were stanchly opposed to electoral reform in the province’s 2018 referendum, saying it would cause rigged elections. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau abandoned his party’s 2015 election promise of electoral reform in 2017.
B.C.’s enthusiasm, Canseco says it’s going to take work to convince political parties to push for the change, and to find a system that convinces everyone online voting is completely safe.
Smaller countries, such as Estonia, have had online voting for years, and Conseco suggests starting with smaller elections to instill confidence.
“The way in which it happened in other jurisdictions was you introduced it in smaller elections. So Estonia did this municipally a couple of times. It made sense, there were no allegations of fraud or anything problematic, that’s when they took it nationwide,” he said, adding while online voting has seen success in Europe, Canada hasn’t seen a North American model.
As British Columbia prepares to head to the polls, many voters have already cast their ballots through mail. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Elections BC has seen a 100-fold increase in requests for mail-in ballots, with more than 620,000 requests. The influx of mail-in ballots are likely to delay election results, and Canseco suggests if the pandemic is to be with us for a while and mail-in voting becomes more popular, it could be economically and politically advantageous to switch to online voting.
It may come down to voters demanding a change, he says.
“The way in which we look at technology and the advancements we have at our disposal are far superior than what we talked about 10 or 15 years ago. Maybe this is the moment to start this conversation. It might enable more people to cast their ballot.”
Check out B.C. Votes 2020 page for all your election-related news in the lead up to Oct. 24.