Does Michael Geist really think polling stations are the only option for elections in today’s digital age?

Michael Geist’s column in Saturday’s Toronto Star cited the attacks on the voting system at the recent NDP convention as a reason to dismiss the prospect of online voting in a general election.

It really annoys me when high profile and well respected academics like Geist try to stir the pot by saying that physical polls are any more reliable than offering online voting as an option. For someone who is supposed to be forward thinking, and provide a balanced perspective, this is the second time he has written about online voting, a topic he clearly doesn’t understand.

The issue at the NDP convention was the fact that an attack on the voting system resulted in long delays and inaccessible websites. But does Michael really think the NDP took the same precautions that Elections Canada would take in a federal election?

I’m not about to say that traditional polling stations should be replaced by Internet voting, but the reality in today’s digital age is that you can’t dismiss online voting as an option. And, in fact, Canada is a leader in implementing Internet voting. Michael neglected to mention this in his column.

Perhaps he should have done his homework and read the paper Delvinia published on eDemocracy and Citizen Engagement in Canada. The Delvinia report, written by Nicole Goodman, provided insight into how Canadians—who have experienced Internet voting in an election—feel about the process, as well as Nicole’s scholarly perspective on why online voting is a viable option for elections in Canada. Michael should also have spoken with Markham Mayor Frank Scarpitti about the municipality’s success with online voting in the last three consecutive elections.

In today’s world of digital and social technologies does Michael really believe election officials aren’t capable of addressing the technical and security concerns associated with online voting head on in order to ensure a safe and reliable option for people to cast their votes? This is like saying people should still be buying Kodak film for their cameras because digital photos can be so easily uploaded to the Internet. Seriously?

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