44 municipalities in Ontario have allowed online voting. In 2014 that number will jump to 80. However, Milton will not be one of them.
After nearly two years of debate and studying, the council last year finally agreed to go ahead with adding online voting as an option during advance voting days. In a surprise and unexpected reversal last night, it reversed its position and removed online voting as an option with a razor-thin 6-5 vote.
This was the saddest decision made by this council in last 2.5 years. The council (like any group does) has made decisions I disagree with. But at least I can wrap my mind around reasoning. Last night’s vote was the most bizarre decision I have ever seen made by this council.
One councillor passionately argued that we should allow both forms of voting (online and offline), and then proceeded to vote against online voting anyway.
Another two argued we shouldn’t jump ahead at the leading edge of technology, completely missing the point that the technology has been used by 44 cities and towns in Ontario for over a decade.
One used technical terms he did not quiet understand, comparing the municipal process of online voting (which is far safer than any other form of voting by the way) with other forms of online polling that had no similarity. It’s like saying you don’t use a DVD player because your computer crashed that one time.
Some argued that we did not want everyone to vote anyway or that people should make sacrifices to vote. Whether you agree with the statement, 10 years of data from numerous Ontario municipalities shows that online voting in fact does not increase turnout and it does not make non-voters vote. In fact, there is a rigorous two-step process that cannot be performed online. Online voting does two things: 1) make it easier for people who vote anyway; and 2) increases satisfaction with the process.
But the prize went to one councillor who insisted that voting was not a right, it was a privilege that had to be earned (and somehow lining up is how you earn it). I repeat, voting is a right, not a privilege
I explained why I suppported online voting in this post.
ps. The main point is that democracy and democratic culture should reflect contemporary culture, rather than marginalizing it.