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Three Developments in Our Quest for Internet and Telephone Voting to Promote Accessibility for Voters With Disabilities

November 25, 2011

SUMMARY

Here are three recent developments in our campaign to make elections in Ontario fully accessible for persons with disabilities:

* On November 17, 2011, Elections Ontario responded to our October 28 letter, in which we had asked for a progress report on internet and telephone voting. Elections Ontario defers most of our inquiries to the future.

* Toronto Star columnist Martin Regg Cohn supports the need for internet voting to help fight low voter turnout.

* The state of Oregon experiments with use of the iPad to make voting more accessible for some voters with disabilities.

MORE DETAILS

1. ELECTIONS ONTARIO GIVES PRELIMINARY RESPONSE TO OUR REQUESTS RE INTERNET AND TELEPHONE VOTING FOR FUTURE ONTARIO ELECTIONS

On October 28, 2011, we wrote the Chief Electoral Officer for Ontario to ask what steps Elections Ontario has taken to investigate the options of telephone and internet voting for upcoming Ontario elections. Right now the Elections Act bans these options. To see our October 28, 2011 letter, visit http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/10312011.asp

On November 17, 2011, the Deputy Chief Electoral Officer gave a preliminary response to our inquiry. She provides a limited amount of information. She defers further answers to our questions to the future. We set out this letter below. In her letter, she refers to an earlier December 2, 2010 letter from Elections Ontario to us. You can see that letter at: http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/04082011.asp

In the October 2011 Ontario election, NDP leader Andrea Horwath promised to introduce legislation that would make Ontario elections more accessible to persons with disabilities. Among the issues she committed to address was the topic of internet and telephone voting. We want secure internet and telephone voting not only for us, but for all Ontario voters.

2. TORONTO STAR COLUMNIST CALLS FOR INTERNET VOTING

In his November 14, 2011 column, respected Queen’s Park Toronto Star columnist Martin Regg Cohn calls for internet voting. His article is entitled “Fixing Ontario’s double democratic deficit.”

On this topic, he wrote as follows on this topic:

“Here’s another challenge for the three major parties if they’re serious about rescuing a democracy that’s dying or, at best, atrophying: Internet voting.

Turnouts have been declining steadily, from 68 per cent in 1975 to 49 per cent last month. It’s a warning sign that cries out for action — the proverbial canary in the cardboard ballot box.

As much as I love trekking to my local polling booth on election day, heart swelling with pride at the sight of my fellow citizens casting their votes, I know in my heart of hearts that this quaint scene is part of our past. People rarely line up for bank tellers, or even ATMs; they bank online. Investors don’t deal with brokers, they opt for day trading. If the big banks can rely on the Internet for security, so can democracies.

Just as young adults can find time to surf Facebook instead of attending a protest, they are more likely to vote if they can click the ballot on their computer screen. Spare me the usual excuses about hackers and voter fraud.

Markham has been trying it municipally since 2003, and turnout has increased by 30 per cent (with research showing young e-voters wouldn’t otherwise have bothered.) Elections Ontario is planning a pilot program next year, but it needs a push from the Legislature.

Where there is a political will, there is a democratic way. If you build it, they will vote.

If the politicians can agree on nothing else when they take their seats in the Legislature next week, they should at least stand together for the democratic process. If not, the next election will only worsen the double jeopardy of ever more money influencing even fewer voters.”

We set out his entire column below. In it, he did not refer to our activity advocating for this reform, or to the need for it to overcome barriers facing voters with disabilities, or to the NDP election pledge in this area.

To see another Toronto Star columnist’s remarks supporting this option for accessible voting, check out the article earlier this year by Helen Henderson. Visit: http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/05022011.asp

3. OREGON TESTS VOTING BY IPAD TO PROMOTE ACCESSIBILITY FOR VOTERS WITH DISABILITIES

A recent news report that we found on the internet (thanks to Twitter), on a website at www.Mashable. Com shows how the State of Oregon is commendably testing the use of the new iPad as a tool to help some voters with disabilities overcome barriers to independently marking their own ballot. We set out that article below.

We earlier reported on Australia’s progress on this option for accessible voting. Visit: http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/05022011.asp

It is high time that Ontario catches up.

Send us your feedback. Write us at: aodafeedback@gmail.com

*****

November 17, 2011

Mr. David Lepofsky, Chair, AODA Alliance
Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance
1929 Bayview Avenue
Toronto, Ontario
M4G 3E8

Dear Mr. Lepofsky,

The Chief Electoral Officer, Greg Essensa, has asked me to respond to the letter you sent to him dated October 28, 2011.

You make recommendations and ask several questions in your letter concerning accessible voting equipment and voting options such as internet and telephone voting. These questions follow up on those we answered in our letter to you dated December 2, 2010 and our email on September 1, 2011.

Your questions and recommendations pertain to new provisions that Elections Ontario continues to implement pursuant to changes made to the Election Act in 2010. As a result of Bill 231, the Election Statute Law Amendment Act, 2010, which was enacted in May 2010, the Legislature adopted new measures to provide for the accommodation of electors with disabilities in the voting process. These include the provision of accessible voting equipment during advance polls and the last five days of voting in returning offices, and a requirement for the Chief Electoral Officer to review and report on alternative voting technologies by June 30, 2013.

I have summarized your inquiries and recommendations and provided our response below.

Internet and telephone voting options

In this area, you have recommended:

* Internet and telephone voting should be available to all voters.
* Elections Ontario accelerate our work on internet and telephone voting and complete our review before June 30, 2013.

You have asked for a detailed update on what Elections Ontario has done since the enactment of Bill 231 on the topic of alternative voting technologies and options for voters with disabilities. In particular you asked:

* What has Elections Ontario done to investigate alternative voting technologies such as internet and telephone voting?
* With whom have we consulted and does this include the Ontario Human Rights Commission and the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario?
* How quickly can we complete our study of new voting options?
* Is Elections Ontario prepared and willing to test internet and telephone voting when the next by-election is called?
* What options have we explored for testing internet and telephone voting, other than in a by-election, given that such options must be tested in a by-election before the Chief Electoral Officer can recommend them to a Committee of the Legislature which has the authority to accept or reject any recommendation?

As you know from our December 2, 2010 letter, Elections Ontario began a research program soon after passage of Bill 231 to look at the use of various networked voting options.

Elections Ontario has done extensive analysis and research on networked voting solutions, has consulted with our Accessibility Advisory Committee and other jurisdictions, and we have just released a Request for Proposals to engage with the vendor community to look for an option that meets the needs of Ontarians.

You also asked questions regarding accessible voting equipment:

* How many voters used the accessible voting equipment?
* What problems if any were reported by voters or Elections Ontario officials?
* What other information did Elections Ontario have on possible defects or problems with this voting equipment, and when did Elections Ontario learn of any problems?
* What steps did Elections Ontario take to correct any reported problems with the accessible voting equipment?
* Why were accessible voting equipment not permitted on election day?
* Was this restriction instituted on the advice of Elections Ontario?
* What options did Elections Ontario consider for enabling the deployment of this equipment on election day, short of banning them?
* Why was the actual price of accessible voting equipment less than the figures used during the 2010 legislative debates over Bill 231?

We are currently collecting data regarding the overall election, including the use of accessible voting equipment and receipt of customer service feedback about the equipment, among other services we provided.

As you can imagine, given that the election involves over eight million electors in 107 electoral districts, with support provided by over 75,000 election staff, the evaluation process is extensive. It is too early to report on any specific element of the election process or to reach conclusions. The Chief Electoral Officer is required to publish a report regarding the use of the equipment. Your questions will be addressed in the report. Our office plans to publish that report in mid-2012.

Finally, we want to thank you for your feedback about the accessible voting equipment which you discussed with Susan McMurray, our manager responsible for Elections Ontario’s Accessibility Program. We acted on your feedback, by advising Returning Officers that their Tabulator Deputy Returning Officers should inform a voter using the ballot review process to press the blue down arrow/paddle to take them to the actual review of the ballot.

In closing, thank you for your questions and for providing Elections Ontario with your recommendations.

Yours truly,

Loren A. Wells
Deputy Chief Electoral Officer

cc: Hon. Dalton McGuinty, Premier
Tim Hudak, Leader, Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario
Andrea Horwath, Leader, New Democratic Party of Ontario
Hon. John Milloy, Minister, Community & Social Services
Marguerite Rappolt, Deputy Minister, Community & Social Services
Ellen Waxman, Assistant Deputy Minister, Accessibility Directorate
Tim Lewis, Director, Democratic Institutions Policy

Loren A. Wells
Deputy Chief Electoral Officer
Directrice générale adjointe des élections
Elections Ontario/Élections Ontario
416-326-6387/1-866-668-2236 (Canada & U.S./É.U.
FAX: 416-326-6201/1-866-714-2817 (Canada & U.S./É.U.)

*****

November 14 2011 Toronto Star.doc

URL: http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/politics/article/1086879–cohn-fixing-ontario-s-double-democratic-deficit
Cohn: Fixing Ontario’s double democratic deficit
Martin Regg Cohn

Whatever your politics, last month’s provincial election results were doubly depressing: Voter-buying, and voter turnout, reached new highs and lows.

Yes, there was much public hand-wringing about the rapid decline in ballots cast, which dipped below 50 per cent of eligible voters for the first time. Yet any serious talk about how to remedy our homegrown democratic deficit has faded from the agenda.

Meanwhile, the dearth of voters was matched by a surge in fundraising, leaving our political parties awash in cash from major corporations and big unions. By national standards, Queen’s Park remains an anachronism, an island of old-style politics.

Let me stress the point: Compared to Stephen Harper’s Canada, where campaign financing has entered the modern era, Dalton McGuinty’s Ontario is frozen in time. An electoral backwater.

Two decades ago, the federal Liberals (under Jean Chrétien) sharply limited corporate and union donations to $1,000. Harper went further after winning power in 2006 by banning them entirely and restricting individual contributions to $1,200.

In McGuinty’s Ontario, corporations and unions can still exploit an annual limit of $16,500 in combined donations to a party, candidates and riding associations. At election time, they can double up.

The biggest single donor so far this year was not a company but a union. As the Star’s Joanna Smith reported this month, the Carpenters’ District Council of Ontario made nine separate donations totalling $41,510, of which $25,260 went to McGuinty’s party (the Tories got $14,000 from them and their NDP brethren a mere $2,250.)

Research in Motion Inc. gave $9,500 to the Liberals, its two co-CEOs gave another $37,700 (as individuals), and their families donated an additional $65,100 — which adds up to a $112,300 haul. The big banks are also generous donors to both Liberals and Tories, as are energy and infrastructure companies that do business with the government

It’s never something for nothing. No one should be able to get into bed with the party in power, nor pay so much for the privilege. It’s time to bring Ontario into the modern age of Canadian campaign finance laws to remove the shadow of undue influence by vested interests.

Here’s another challenge for the three major parties if they’re serious about rescuing a democracy that’s dying or, at best, atrophying: Internet voting.

Turnouts have been declining steadily, from 68 per cent in 1975 to 49 per cent last month. It’s a warning sign that cries out for action — the proverbial canary in the cardboard ballot box.

As much as I love trekking to my local polling booth on election day, heart swelling with pride at the sight of my fellow citizens casting their votes, I know in my heart of hearts that this quaint scene is part of our past. People rarely line up for bank tellers, or even ATMs; they bank online. Investors don’t deal with brokers, they opt for day trading. If the big banks can rely on the Internet for security, so can democracies.

Just as young adults can find time to surf Facebook instead of attending a protest, they are more likely to vote if they can click the ballot on their computer screen. Spare me the usual excuses about hackers and voter fraud.

Markham has been trying it municipally since 2003, and turnout has increased by 30 per cent (with research showing young e-voters wouldn’t otherwise have bothered.) Elections Ontario is planning a pilot program next year, but it needs a push from the Legislature.

Where there is a political will, there is a democratic way. If you build it, they will vote.

If the politicians can agree on nothing else when they take their seats in the Legislature next week, they should at least stand together for the democratic process. If not, the next election will only worsen the double jeopardy of ever more money influencing even fewer voters.

Martin Regg Cohn’s provincial affairs column appears Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday. mcohn@thestar.ca, twitter.com/reggcohn.

****

Oregon Puts iPad Voting on the Map

November 8, 2011 by Todd Wasserman
Posted on the internet at: http://mashable.com/2011/11/08/ipad-voting-oregon/

In an attempt to make voting easier for the elderly and disabled, Oregon is letting citizens in five counties cast their votes on Apple iPads.

Election workers in the counties that make up that state’s 1st Congressional District are hitting parks, nursing homes and community centers to find voters who have trouble filling out traditional mail-in paper ballots, reports the Associated Press. The district is holding a special election to replace the seat left open by ex-Rep. David Wu, who left Congress in July after allegations emerged that he had had a sexual encounter with a young woman. Oregon is the first state to try voting via iPad, according to the report.

Oregon, which was also the first state to allow voting by mail, is embracing the iPad as a way to make it easier for voters with physical impairments to participate in elections. Voters can touch the iPad’s screen to pick a candidate. Then the choice is printed and mailed or dropped in an official ballot box. The iPad also lets voters adjust the screen if they’re having trouble reading the ballot. Voters whose movements are severely limited can also attach a “sip-and-puff” device to cast their vote.

SEE ALSO: Election Day 2011: Online Tools to Help You Vote

Apple donated five iPads to the effort. State Elections Director Steve Trout estimates that Oregon would need 72 iPads to run the program statewide.

Since iPad-voting was introduced in early 2010, advocates for the disabled were quick to see its potential uses. People with cerebral palsy, Down syndrome and Alzheimer’s disease, among other maladies, have used the iPad to help communicate and ameliorate those conditions’ effects.

Meanwhile, states and municipalities have accepted new voting technology in varying degrees. Proponents of electronic voting machines say they advance an area of public life that is out of step with the digital transformation happening elsewhere. However, critics say the machines are vulnerable to tampering. Microsoft recently highlighted one such scheme called a “Trash Attack” in which election workers can collect discarded receipts and then alter the results since voters couldn’t prove that tampering took place. Microsoft’s proposed solution is to use cryptography to scramble the receipts’ contents.

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