Voting in person — it’s how democracy works
It’s Election Day. I’m going to vote. The old-fashioned way – I’m actually going there, to a polling station, to mark a “traditional” paper ballot.
This tradition, with all its attendant safeguards – a live body that shows up in person, with proof of identity, voting in a public venue under the watchful eye of the deputy returning officer, yet able to preserve independence of choice through the secrecy of the ballot – was hard-won.
I’m not about to give it up.
It used to be that there were many polling stations, here in Springwater Township. We would go to one set up in the front room of a farm on the next line. This time, there are three – one in Elmvale, one at the township office in Midhurst and one in Minesing. I will take time out to drive, line up and vote. It will probably take about half an hour.
Yesterday, my husband went upstairs, went online, and voted. It took him five minutes. “It’s amazing how easy it is,” he said.
Here are some of the problems with the new-fangled voting systems in general and what happened in my own municipality in particular.
-Potential for impersonation. When Springwater’s plans went south (literally) and the voter identification cards with personal identification number (PIN) and the separate envelopes containing a password were delayed, Plan B required residents to call the ‘help desk’ of Everyone Counts, the U.S.-based company selected to provide electronic voting, a 1-888 number, to get their PIN and password. All you had to do was provide name, address and date of birth. If you were on the voters’ list, you were given the information. Safeguards supposedly offered by mailing the PIN one week, the password the next, were eliminated by the single phone-call solution. In addition, the voter identification cards arrived in the same mail delivery – also eliminating the safeguard offered in Plan A, which had the two envelopes mailed in separate weeks – four days after advance voting was to have started.
-Privatization. By choosing electronic rather than in-person voting, we are privatizing the vote in two ways – making it a private act rather than a public one. It also exports jobs that used to be done by our own municipal staff, supplemented by an Election Day force of local residents, to large multi-national corporations over which we have no control.
-Outdated lists. If we are going to have electronic voting, it’s essential that municipalities update their lists with live door-to-door enumeration, to ensure that voting cards/numbers aren’t provided for people who have moved away or died.
-Improper influence. Voting in the privacy of the home is not private. It is subject to influence of the type that polling stations strive to avoid by banning election signs and literature. It may be subject to more direct influence, allowing a member of the household to tell people how to vote, or even collect all the PIN numbers and cast their ballots. It makes buying votes a much less chancy proposition because the buyer can watch the voter vote. This is a problem for both electronic and by mail voting. In the ballot booth, there’s no guarantee that the vote stays bought.
-Security. There are two types of electronic voting. In one case, the voting machines are at polling stations, in the other the voting takes place from the voter’s home or other location, by internet or phone. In both cases, the casting and counting of the ballots are open to software failure and outright hacking.
The internet is rife with accounts such as this, from a recent vote in Tennessee: Ellis said he voted “no” on Amendment One Thursday. Before he submitted his ballot, he noticed a problem.”Sometime between when I cast my vote and when I got to the review page, the machine had changed my vote to a ‘yes,” Ellis said.
In Canada, although results were apparently not affected. the system was compromised in two high-profile elections:
-In 2102, the New Democratic Party’s vote for a new leader came under a malicious attack that used more than 10,000 computers that delayed results for hours.
-Last month, election results in New Brunswick were delayed because of a computer.
Another problem is that voting electronically and by mail divorces the election from the campaign. Some conscientious citizens figure they might as well get the job done as soon as the envelope arrives. That’s before they’ve had a chance to assess new candidates and follow the issues as they develop at meetings and in the media. In Tiny, the federation of shoreline associations announced its choice of a slate of candidates before the first all-candidates meeting was held. All of which degrades an important ritual in our society – a ritual that starts with nominations, includes canvassing, meetings, endorsements, media coverage and coffee shop talk – and culminates on Election Day.
So let’s preserve the integrity of our elections. See you at the polling station – check your municipal website for locations.