Ontario Buys Voting Machines for Municipal Elections

Imagine my surprise when I voted last Monday and discovered that I had to insert my ballot in an electronic tabulating machine. If the horrific lessons from the US were not enough, the government of Quebec has banned the use of these machines after last year’s experience, acknowledged by the provincial government as a “fiasco” that produced results that the Chief Electoral Officer admitted did “not offer sufficient guarantees of transparency and security to ensure the integrity of the vote”, seriously eroded voter confidence, took longer and cost 25% more than the paper system (that worked just fine) that it replaced. The long litany of problems with the machines included:
  • Machines misread ballots.
  • A backup plan covering all possible problems was missing.
  • The lack of paper ballots in some municipalities prevented judicial recounts.
  • Only partial testing of the voting machines took place in some instances.
I’m at a loss to understand why so many Ontario municipalities agreed to use these machines, given this experience, and given the fact there was no problem with the existing manual system, which is used (for now at least) in all federal and provincial elections and which produces fast, inexpensive, accurate, verifiable results and is the envy of most of the Western world.

There’s a great Canadian blog covering this issue exclusively. The decision to use these machines in Ontario is made by the municipality — by the local incumbent politicians, not by an independent electoral commission. These are the same municipal politicians whose election campaigns are 90% funded by real estate developers. Yet this was not even mentioned as an election issue. In Caledon, the machine were bought from Dominion Voting Systems, who also runs the website where the official results are displayed. Their website contains no information on who owns them or who their executives are, though they do list the Conservative Party of Canada as a key client.

*Sigh* We take so much for granted. The election turnout in our area was 34%. The media said nothing about electronic voting or the blatant conflict of interest of almost all the incumbents whose campaigns were substantially financed by developers — developers who will soon be applying to these same politicians for zoning variances and other concessions to accelerate endless urban sprawl.

It’s only a democracy when you have a real choice, and the necessary information to exercise it.

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