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Surrey, Delta look at online voting

Surrey is considering moving to a web- and telephone-based voting system for civic elections. -
Surrey is considering moving to a web- and telephone-based voting system for civic elections.
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Before long, voting for your choice of mayor and city councillors could be a matter of walking to your computer – or phone – and selecting your favourite candidates.

Electronic voting is under consideration by Surrey council, which will debate the issue on Monday.

Mayor Dianne Watts favours the idea, but she wants to ensure it won't be subject to abuse.

She says the advantages of such a system could be substantial, among them an increase in voter participation, ease of taking part in the vote, and environmental benefits, as people won't be driving to polling places.

Under the system, registered voters would be mailed a PIN (personal identification number) which they would use to log in to a website or identify themselves on the phone.

However, concerns remain regarding the security of the system, Watts said.

Left unchecked, it could be possible for someone to acquire that PIN – or several of them – to vote for the people of their choice.

The system would not be ready for this election, Watts said.

Delta Mayor Lois Jackson shares Surrey's concerns and notes there's a method in place that works well now. It would be a shame, Jackson said, to wander into a system that could be widely abused.

Last year, Ontario residents in 33 municipalities were given the option of voting over the Internet or phone. Several problems occurred, including some delays in getting people their PIN numbers by mail.

Union of B.C. Municipalities president Barbara Steele, also a Surrey councillor, said she's heard from some members who are interested in the possibility. She agrees with Watts that a web- and telephone-based system won't be ready for this November's civic election, as it would require provincial approval first.

kdiakiw@surreyleader.com

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