Zut! e-voting problems in Quebec

Those who know me may not realise that I’m actually half French-Canadian, but I am, proudly so. I don’t sound it due to years of English education, though fat good that does me – every time I’ve been abroad recently people have commented that, on the basis of our english-speaking accents, I must be American and my Polish wife must be English sigh.

I digress. The news is that on Sunday 6th November the Quebecois voted in municipal elections for councillors and mayors. In many areas this was done with electronic voting kiosks within polling stations (there was no remote e-voting). DRE and optical scan machines were used, details of all the systems used can be found in this forum post.

Paper Vote Canada has a summary of some Canadian press coverage [French]. Essentially the reports argue that very little has been put in place to ensure the security of the vote and even the president of one of the suppliers is quoted as saying, I translate, “There isn’t really a way to prove to a voter that their vote was stored exactly as they wanted. One needs blind faith in the integrity of the local election officials.”

Two days after the election, the province’s Chief Electoral Officer is reported as saying that the computer glitches were due to a network crash and a few defective machines. As a result the official states that electronic balloting may not best suited for bigger cities and so rules out e-voting from provincial elections or referenda for the near future. CBC report

Last Friday a leading Montreal politican (who lost his race to become mayor) called for the election results to be cancelled due to the technical problems [French] This was after results, supposed to be ready in minutes, took hours to appear but it soon emerged 45,000 votes had been counted twice, a few days later the results changed again in three districts, a new winner being named in one race. Details

The elections had very low turnout, I’ve seen figures as low as 35% mentioned. Canada’s paper-based electoral system is excellent. There seems to be no good case for the expense and risk of introducing e-voting in Canada. The current system is simple, note that they also seem to lack any certification process for these new systems. I hope that the current doubts over the recent election results can be cleared up – for everyone’s benefit – and that they then leave this stupid machines alone. The damage to turnout from uncertain results is far worse than any benefits e-voting could bring.

More Links
French site recul-democratique.org has a bit more on the Quebec situation [French]

The English-speaking Montreal Gazette has more, but for subscribers only, and I didn’t have time to get in but the stories are here