The cancellation “profoundly disappointed” one member of the city’s disability issues committee. The city says there isn’t enough time to get the system ready. By: Daniel Dale City Hall, Published on Wed Jul 23 2014
Toronto’s government has cancelled a plan to allow disabled residents to vote online and by phone in the 2014 election, saying there is not enough time to build and test the system.
Council only approved the online and phone voting in February, a month into the campaign period. The city clerk said she had the authority to call off the project “to protect the integrity of the election” if key deadlines were not met. She did so this month.
“The clerk engaged independent third-party experts, including an accessibility and usability expert, two security and cryptographic experts, an external auditing firm and a testing firm,” city officials wrote in a report to council. “There is insufficient time for the third-party experts to conduct a full assessment of the security and accessibility of the (system) before the start of Internet and telephone voting registration on September 8, 2014.”
Council approved the cancellation in a 29-1 vote but gave preliminary authorization for online and phone voting by all voters, disabled and non-disabled, in future elections, “as the city clerk deems appropriate.” The city will present an implementation proposal in August.
The city said it could not immediately explain the financial ramifications of the cancellation.
The city budgeted $914,343 to pay the firm it hired to provide the system, Scytl Canada, plus a further $290,100 for “third-party testers.” The report noted that only $60,000 has been spent, solely on the testers, but a spokeswoman said she did not know if Scytl is also owed money or whether the change of plans will cost the city extra.
The cancellation “profoundly disappointed” one member of the city’s disability issues committee, Sandra Carpenter, who told the city she finds it “hard to believe that you don’t have time to make the necessary changes.
“If council grants this delay, Toronto will once again be passing up on the opportunity to be a leader in accessibility,” Carpenter, executive director of the Centre for Independent Living in Toronto, wrote in a letter.
Future online voting would happen during the advance voting period prior to Election Day. Markham has offered online voting since 2003, and several other municipalities have since begun doing so without significant problems.
Andria Spindel, chief executive officer of March of Dimes Canada, said she is also disappointed. Not all disabled people would vote online, she said, but the option would be useful to people with severe challenges.
“It’s a transportation issue, it’s an accessibility issue getting into a building, it’s a handling-the-paper issue; we’ve even had staff that can’t handle paper because of their disability,” Spindel said. “So I could see where it would be of great assistance to a good percentage of people, particularly younger disabled people we’re trying to encourage to become active citizens.”