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British Columbia government says no to online voting in Vancouver

Vancouver citizens will not be able to vote online in this year’s municipal election after all.

Ida Chong, provincial Minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development, has written to Mayor Gregor Robertson that the province will not amend the Vancouver Charter to allow the city to conduct a pilot test of internet voting because of potential risks associated with voting online. 

Recently, the Observer reported that the city was optimistic Chong would give her approval. City Councillor Andrea Reimer, who initiated the internet voting proposal, told the Observer that the provincial government was also interested in exploring giving voters an online option, and so should be willing to allow Vancouver to conduct its pilot.

Council had voted 10-1 in favour of the pilot, which would have allowed registered voters to vote online in the advance poll, but not on the actual day of the election. Only Suzanne Anton -- who is running for mayor against Robertson -- opposed the idea.

According to The Province newspaper, which acquired a copy of the letter, Chong acknowledged the extra convenience and accessibility that internet voting could bring but was concerned about its potential risks:

“There are also risks that need to be carefully considered and addressed before we can move forward. These risks include: the vulnerability of Internet voting to service disruptions or hacker attacks; authentication of voter identity without jeopardizing anonymity of the vote; and protecting voters from intimidation or coercion when they are exercising their franchise away from the transparent environment of a physical voting place.”

Reimer told the Observer she was disappointed Chong turned down the City’s request, but happy that Chong acknowledged the positive benefits that internet voting could bring. “While it was disappointing that voters who want to vote online won't have that opportunity in this election, having a firm yes to the concept with a timeline attached  by the Ministry is very positive.”

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