There is no doubt, millennials love the internet. It makes a lot of things so much easier, for a lot of people. You can communicate online, do your shopping online, you can do your banking online, and soon, you could be doing your voting online, too! In a bid to encourage more young people to vote, the Northwest Territories (N.W.T) will become the first jurisdiction in Canada to use an online voting system.
According to reports, voter turnout in the 2015 territorial election was a disappointing 44 per cent, with a staggering number of 18-35-year-olds not showing up to cast a vote. In fact, of the millennial age group, only 20 per cent placed a vote, leaving the demographic drastically underrepresented. So, the Northwest Territories have decided to do something about it.
As the first jurisdiction in Canada to use online voting in a provincial or territorial election, the N.W.T will open polls for their territorial election in October and allow the public to elect 19 members to the N.W.T. Legislative Assembly, via the internet.
Eligible voters will be able to use a new website, ‘Electorhood,’ to access the ‘Simply Voting’ system that will allow people to cast their ballots. Reports say the site will be accessible from September 6 up until the end of election day on October 1, as long as you have registered for the absentee ballot beforehand.
Voters will be able to apply for this absentee ballot from August. 9 to September. 21, which will allow them to vote up to three weeks before the election. This means an additional 11 voting days, compared to 2015. Elections N.W.T. hopes this flexibility will encourage and enable more people to cast their vote, particularly those with holidays or extremely busy schedules.
The new voting system is likely to be a success, as the ‘Simply Voting’ platform has exceeded expectations in the past. The website has been used for many municipal, Indigenous, union and university elections, and has had increased turnout. Prince Edward Island used the online voting platform in 2016 for a plebiscite and reported an 80 per cent turnout of online voters.
Nicole Latour, the chief electoral officer of the N.W.T. told CBC News she was feeling positive about the new system, believing that the website will encourage millennials to get involved. While online voting offers plentiful opportunities to encourage voters, some people argue the system renders itself vulnerable to hackers and outside influences.
In fact, the president of ‘Simply Voting’ himself, Brian Lack, said the platform would not be ideal for a federal election. He felt that, “The heightened threat level of a federal election pushes the security of internet voting past its limits and poses too much of a risk."
While Lack was confident in the website for smaller elections, with fewer security threats, he concluded a federal election would be too vulnerable to illicit intervention and cyber-attacks.
While the online voting systems may not be ready for federal elections for some time, it is still an exciting step in a technological-direction, allowing voting to be more accessible to more people.