Nicole Goodman, Associate Professor of Political Science at Brock University, and Aleksander Essex, Associate Professor of Software Engineering and Cybersecurity at Western University, had a piece recently published in The Globe and Mail about the need to regulate voting technologies in Canada.
“Canadian elections at provincial, territorial and municipal levels have grown increasingly digital. We have seen the introduction of electronic poll books, electronic tabulators, and online and telephone voting. The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated this process. As a result, there has never been a more crucial time to regulate voting technologies.
A recent report by the Communications Security Establishment emphasized that migrating elements of the democratic process online has increased the “cyber threat surface” of our democracy. Elections are a key part of this trend.
In Canada and around the world, elections and referendums have been postponed or modified because of the pandemic. Despite increasing vaccine rates in developed countries, public-health concerns persist and safety measures will likely continue for some time, meaning governments will need to consider voters who may not be able to attend polls in person or feel comfortable doing so. Many jurisdictions have been looking to new technologies to promote voting equality, which can be vulnerable around times of crisis when certain electors may be disproportionately affected.
At the same time as governments consider expanding voting methods, a growing number of companies are bringing their services to market. In the 2018 Ontario municipal elections, four companies deployed online, telephone voting and electronic tabulators. The number of vendors bidding on contracts has ballooned to 14 in advance of the 2022 elections. With this shift we are seeing new approaches that haven’t been used in the real world yet, and older ones that are due for updates still in use.”
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