Published On Mon Sep 26 2011
Michelle Huycke, 64, is a resident of Markham who voted online in the last municipal election.
Liam Casey Staff Reporter
Internet voting in advance polls in Markham has helped increase overall voter turnout, engage non-voters to vote and greatly improve overall voter satisfaction, according to a research and public opinion report released Monday.
In the report by Delvinia,
a digital strategy firm, voter turnout in Markham has increased by 35 per cent since the introduction of Internet voting in 2003, and much of that is attributed to the advent of online voting.
“Offering Internet ballots in advance polls in Markham has permanently transformed advanced voter turnout,” said Nicole Goodman, a PhD candidate in political science at Carleton University who studied alternative voting methods for the report.
Markham was the first major municipality in Canada to experiment with Internet voting. Eighty municipal elections in Canada have used Internet voting.
Voter turnout at advance polls increased by 300 per cent in 2003 and continued to increase through the 2006 and 2010 elections. Michelle Huycke was among those early online voters in Markham last year.
She was among the 91 per cent of Internet voters who cast their ballot from home and among the 99 per cent who were satisfied with the online voting process.
“I didn’t have to find out where I was going to vote, or leave the house or worry about making it to the poll on time,” said Huycke, 64. “Plus it’s easy
and you don’t have to wait in line.”
The report shows that Internet voting has the ability to lure non-voters into the election process: 25 per cent of online voters in 2003 said they didn’t
vote in 2000; 21 per cent said the same in 2006 and 9 per cent in 2010. Overall voter turnout in Markham in 2010 was 36 per cent. It was 26.7 per cent
The thousands who are now voting earlier have fundamentally changed the way politicians approach elections — they must make an impression as soon as the campaign begins, said Markham’s mayor, Frank Scarpitti.
“When I was out canvassing last year, I came across many people who had already voted online,” said Scarpitti, who’s been Markham’s mayor since 2006. “Luckily, they voted for me.”
Scarpitti believes this shift to early voting means that successful campaigns will no longer be geared to the big finish on election day.
“It was a real eye-opener for us,” Scarpitti said. “But we are so happy with the increased turnout and it’s worked out so well for us that it’s time to
expand this to provincial and federal elections.”
Elections Ontario plans to have a pilot Internet voting test in 2012 and must report back to the legislature about alternative voting technologies. Elections
Canada will also pursue Internet voting with a trial slated for 2013, likely in a byelection.
But what appeals most to voters is the convenience online voting provides. Huycke said previous trips to vote could take an hour or two, depending on the location of the polling station and the length of lineups.
“It took me five minutes to vote last year,” Huycke said. “And I was really impressed by the security.”
First, Huycke went online to request to vote through the Internet. Then she received a voter card in the mail with a unique identification number, which
she input, along with a password she created, in order to register.
A week later, she received a second voter card in the mail with a new identification number, which she then used, along with her own password and date of birth, to log in to vote. Then she clicked a few buttons and voted.
Would you vote online?
- Those aged 45 to 54 are the most likely to make use of Internet voting.
- The average Internet voter has some university education and falls into an income bracket between $55,000 and $84,999.
- Most online voters have access to the Internet at home, use the Internet frequently and have good access.
- Users are more likely to be nonimmigrants and report English as their mother tongue. (There were seven languages to choose from in Markham’s online voting system.)
- The rate of use of Internet voting among young people appears to be declining with each election cycle, while it is increasing among older electors.
- About one-third of people 18 to 24 say they wouldn’t have voted had Internet voting not been an option.
- The youngest and oldest online voters are most likely to cite accessibility as their main motivation for voting.