More Guelph voters

Greater civic participation, which includes voting in municipal elections, allows the City to better serve the community.

Voter participation in Guelph has declined over the past decade. To counter this trend, the City’s exploring ways municipal voting can be more convenient and accessible to Guelph voters.

Alternative voting methods—such as Internet voting, vote-by-mail and telephone voting—can increase voter participation by engaging individuals who typically do not vote in municipal elections.

Internet voting is a worthy consideration

Of the alternative voting methods the City has researched, Internet voting is the recommended option. Here’s why:

  • Compared to other alternative voting options, Internet voting has the greatest potential to engage new voters when offered in addition to traditional voting places.
  • Best practices and academic research confirms it poses the least amount of risk and greatest benefits compared to other alternative voting methods. The most compelling of these benefits are greater accessibility and convenience for Guelph voters.
  • There’s community support. Recent public opinion research revealed a greater number of Guelph electors are more likely to vote using Internet voting (48 per cent) than traditional paper ballots (40 per cent).
Governance Committee Staff Report

Decisions, decisions

On Monday, July 29, 2013, Guelph City Council approved the use of remote Internet voting as an alternative voting method in the 2014 municipal election during the advance voting period.

Research and resources

Oraclepoll’s Guelph Voter Participation Telephone Survey Findings Report City of Guelph Report on Remote Electronic Voting Options by Nicole Goodman, PhD An Analysis of Alternative Voting Methods by Blair Labelle

Frequently asked questions

What’s Internet voting?

Internet voting is the term used for the process of casting a vote on an electronic ballot through the internet.

What are the advantages of Internet voting?

The most common advantages of Internet voting are that it provides:

  • greater accessibility to more voters
  • an option for some voters with disabilities to privately cast a ballot (not always possible in traditional voting places)
  • a convenient alternative to voting proxies for students, seniors and vacationers
  • faster and more accurate results on voting day
  • a “green” (paperless) voting option

Will offering Internet voting increase voter participation?

Internet voting can increase voter participation over the long-term. In the short-term, it offers the greatest likelihood of all voting channels to engage underrepresented groups within the electorate.

Is Internet voting complicated?

No. Internet voting is designed for electors with a basic understanding of how to use web browsers and e-mail on computers, tablets and cell phones.

Those who are not comfortable using an electronic device to vote, can cast their paper ballot at a voting place as they have done in the past, either during the advance voting period or on voting day—Monday, October 27, 2014.

Do Guelph residents support Internet voting?

Yes, Guelph residents support Internet voting. The City recently polled 600 Guelph residents who are eligible to vote, how they feel about Internet voting. Here are a few highlights:

  • 62 per cent Guelph electors’ agree they would feel confident casting their vote online
  • 56 per cent agreed if Internet voting were available they would vote in the municipal elections
  • More Guelph electors (48 per cent) agree they would most likely vote by remote Internet in the 2014 municipal election, if offered by the City, compared to 40 per cent who would most likely vote by paper ballot
Oraclepoll’s Guelph Voter Participation Telephone Survey Findings Report

How much will Internet voting cost?

If the use of Internet voting is approved for the 2014 election, the City will issue a request for proposals to source the most competitive bid. It’s estimated that the price can range from $50,000 to $90,000. These funds are available through the City’s existing election reserve, so new funds will not be required to support Internet voting.

What are the risks of Internet voting?

The most common concerns with Internet voting are associated with system security, specifically, protecting against external tampering, voter privacy and coercion, user authentication such as validating identity, and cost.

What security measures will the City put in place?

Technical security measures such as using firewalls, user authentication practices, failover connectivity and server redundancy will all be in place. Robust process-related controls will also be established along with a comprehensive testing program designed to audit every stage of deployment to ensure the integrity of the system is upheld.

Why doesn’t Guelph offer vote-by-mail or telephone voting as an alternative voting option?

Internet voting provides the best value when compared to other alternative voting methods, particularly vote-by-mail. Internet voting is also viewed as the best compliment to traditional voting in larger, urban municipalities. Further, when Guelph electors’ weighed in during a recent telephone survey, only eight per cent indicated that they would vote by telephone, if it were available.

Does Internet voting comply with the requirements of the Ontario Municipal
Elections Act?

Yes. Most notably it complies with the Municipal Elections Act by making the election accessible to all voters.

Can I still vote at my local voting place?

Yes. The City is proposing the use of Internet voting as an optional alternative to voting places during the advance voting period. As always, traditional voting places will also be open to voters during this time.

Why propose Internet voting as only an advance voting option?

To offer Internet voting during the advance voting period through to voting day requires greater financial resources to equip each voting place with computer terminals that are connected to the same master voters’ list.

Offering Internet voting only during the advance voting period, allows an opportunity to see how this voting method impacts the administration of the election as well as voter participation before investing more significantly in additional technology.

Are other municipalities using it?

Approximately 44 municipalities in Ontario used Internet voting in 2010, either as a complementary voting method or as the sole channel of voting. It has been estimated that upwards of 80 to 100 municipalities in Ontario may use Internet voting in 2014.

Why is it less risky than the other alternative methods considered?

Internet voting is better at verifying voter intent, which means controls can be established to prohibit a voter from unintentionally spoiling a ballot. This mirrors what we have been able to do at voting places with the vote scanners/tabulators.

Whereas Vote-by-mail methods do not have the capability to fully verify voter intent, and they require completed ballots to be returned through the mail.

The risk involved with telephone voting isn’t about security but rather losing voters through the voting process before having completed their ballots. Municipal ballots are often lengthy and require voters to navigate through a 20 minute long audio ballot.

How do voters use Internet voting?

Voters typically follow one of two commonly used processes.

The one-step process where electors on the voters’ list:

  • receive credentials on their voter card
  • are asked to verify their identity by signing an oath and answering a question that draws from information on the voters’ list
  • then log on to vote during the voting period

The two-step process is used more often in Ontario by urban municipalities and relies on a registration system, where electors on the voters’ list:

  • use the voter card credentials to register for online voting
  • are asked to develop a personalized security question and answer
  • are asked their personalized security question prior to voting
  • use secondary credentials supplied to access their online ballot during the voting period

For more information

Blair Labelle
City Clerk
City Clerk’s Office
Corporate and Human Resources
519-822-1260 extension 2232
blair.labelle@guelph.ca