Make elections greener – Internet voting!

Today is election day here in Edmonton. Today is also Blog Action Day. Better together? Let’s find out! It should be pretty clear that election day means we’re voting for our city mayor, councillors, and school board trustees, but what is Blog Action Day all about? From the website:

On October 15th, bloggers around the web will unite to put a single important issue on everyone’s mind – the environment. Every blogger will post about the environment in their own way and relating to their own topic. Our aim is to get everyone talking towards a better future.

This is my entry for Blog Action Day, and as you may have guessed by now, I am going to talk about the election in relation to the environment. I just heard on the news that the turnout for this election is expected to be an abysmal 20%. Are people really not interested, or is it just too difficult to vote? Maybe a bit of both, but the process can certainly be made simpler. Not to mention more environmentally friendly or green.

There are two major problems with the way we vote now:

  1. So much paper is wasted. There are forms to organize the volunteers. There are forms to register you. The ballot you fill out. The second ballot you fill out because you screwed up on the first one. The documents with results. You get the idea. Voting today is really not an environmentally friendly thing to do. And don’t forget the campaigns either – thousands and thousands of flyers, posters, signs, etc.
  2. It’s too difficult. I worked from 9 to 5 today, and it took me until 6 PM to get back to the area of the city I live in to vote. So I didn’t have much time at all considering the polls close at 8 PM. Not only that, but once you get to the voting station you have to deal with three dinosaurs before you even get a ballot. Seriously, why do three individuals have to look at my drivers license in order to let me vote? Isn’t one person good enough? I’m not kidding about the dinosaurs part either. I was easily the youngest person in the room by about 35 years. It’s great that they are helping out, but they move slowly, have to squint at the fine print on the drivers license, and worst of all they look at me like they’ve never seen someone under 40 going to vote (and of course they must comment on that too). Just let me get in and get out!

It doesn’t have to be this way! We could make elections more environmentally friendly and efficient by getting rid of the archaic system we use now and adopting Internet voting. There are of course examples of successes with Internet voting and concern over potential problems that may arise. I won’t get into any of that here, but you can read the very complete Wikipedia entry if you’re interested. I simply look at it this way:

  • Is the Internet good enough for Revenue Canada and the banks? Yes.
  • Would voting over the Internet have a positive impact on the environment? Yes.
  • Would voting over the Internet be faster and easier for voters than the current process? Yes.

Good enough for me. I think it’s time we moved one of our society’s most important institutions into the 21st century. I think it’s time we started voting over the Internet!

7 thoughts on “Make elections greener – Internet voting!

  1. Mack:

    I agree! We have registered ProBallot about 2 years ago, and I really wanted to build a brandable online voting applications for schools, unions, governments, etc. If your up for it, let’s build it.

    We would be happy to share the $10 Billion with you if we could get the United Nations contract 😉

  2. I pretty much agree with all of this. However, doesn’t your employer legally have to give you 3 hours off (paid) to vote? That may only be for provincial and federal elections, though, I’m not sure.

    Most people don’t have to use that time, since the polls are open after typical working hours, but I agree that it’s a pain to try and get down to the polling station right after work. Luckily (and sadly) there isn’t much of a line, even at that time of day, so at least you don’t have to wait too long to cast your ballot.

  3. Chris: Lets build it! Seriously, I’d be happy to take part in something like that…anything to improve the process.

    Adam: I believe the time off is only for provincial/federal, but I could be wrong. Your last point is accurate – sadly, there was absolutely no wait to cast my ballot (except for the poll station workers of course heh).

  4. CANADIAN ELECTION 2008: Failure to follow environmental guidelines results in a NANAIMO VISITOR BOYCOTT call.

    Recent responses derived through a formal environmental petition (#225) to the Office of the Auditor General of Canada have showcased the failure of the Harper government to follow its own environmental guidelines designed to protect the environment at the local level. A controversial development was made possible through the issuance of Fisheries Act S. 35(2) Authorization after a Canadian Environmental Assessment Act screening process (CEAA) was conducted. Conflicting opinions after the fact by the responsible ministers proves Canadians’ have to deal with flawed CEAA screening process.

    The environmental petition focused on the placement of a berm with an asphalt Trans Canada Trail and page-wire fencing across a registered sensitive ecosystem inventory. Environment Minister John Baird acknowledged that environmental guidelines were not followed by the City of Nanaimo and responded: “The existing paved trail through the wetland poses a potential risk to wildlife and may impede movement of wildlife, including species at risk. As a general approach, Environment Canada prefers that travel corridors are available for wildlife.” and further wrote, “fencing may impede movement of the low-flying Virginia rail. Environment Canada would have preferred that there be no fencing.” To date, none of the harmful fencing has been removed as stated in DFO Minister response #10.

    Both Canada and the Province of BC co-produce conservation manuals and guidelines that discourage inappropriate developments into sensitive ecosystems. An asphalt trail across a marsh is highly inappropriate. Community stewards follow these environmental guidelines and find themselves in conflict with a municipality (Nanaimo) that did not want to be constrained by such environmental protection measures. In identifying the real problem, Minister Baird responded, “However, these guidelines are not supported by legislative or regulatory powers, and cannot be enforced unless a local government chooses to enact and follow by-law legislation based on the guidelines.”

    When the City of Nanaimo and the federal government allowed the asphalt trail to be built, they in effect thumbed their noises at the government environmental guidelines. Since then, Local environmental stewards have been fighting a losing battle to have the asphalt removed and have it replaced with the wooden boardwalk that was promised in a Land Use Plan that was develop by the community. Corrective measures to the asphalt trial by local community stewards have been dismissed by Nanaimo City Council. It is also clear that the governments’ stewardship model that we are working under is not effectively protecting the environment at the local level, and volunteer stewards have to go to great lengths to fulfill their stewardship role. It now has become necessary to criticize the conduct of our local municipal government in a larger public forum such as a website that can be easily found through search engines.

    This is to inform you that I have deciding to express my views and advance my protest through the construction of a new website called: Running a website and overseeing a visitor boycott is not a preferred activity for an awarding winning steward, but a last resort. A visitor boycott call is a sad, but necessary tool to let Nanaimo City Council and DFO know that their decision to ignore environmental guidelines must end, and that they must approach our environmental issues conservatively and with the utmost care. I prefer to sit down with decision makers to find solution and compromises to the environmental issues they created. Until then, this Nanaimo visitor boycott website will remain a direct consequence of the poor decision making by Nanaimo City Council.

    In summary, the boycott website will be designed to communicate to people throughout the world the environmental concerns that have been expressed regarding the harmful effects of building an asphalt trail across an ecologically sensitive area and placing sports fields next to Jingle Pot Marsh Nature Park. Wildlife continues to be harassed by those city-supported developments. I believe the pattern of decision making by Nanaimo City Council regarding the development at the Third Street/Jingle Pot Marsh has been profoundly wrong. Unenforceable guidelines and having ineffective environmental regulations are equally wrong. We need our federal government to created new legislative or regulatory powers to make our federal environmental guideline meaningful and effective.

    Please make this local story known. Thank you!

    Rory Rickwood
    Nanaimo Environmental Steward

    For further information, I can be contacted through this email or by Cell: 250.797-2116.

    Background Information: “Auditor General of Canada website” (See Environment Minister response #13 and DFO Minister response #10) “Nanaimo News Bulletin front page”
    “Blog/Globe and Mail News Report”
    “Times- Colonist News Report” “Website Article” “Click Rory Rickwood to read submission to government website” “for Sierra Legal Defence Fund Media Release”

  5. I have just listened to Prime Minister Harper’s short televised address about other political parties’ interest in establishing a coalition government.

    We are not seeing an effort to overturn an election, but seeing efforts by the majority of our elected representatives trying to create a working parliament. That majority is truly reflective of the Canadian voter. As a western Canadian, I am convinced the conservative minority government will not work.

    A minority government chosen by 37% of the voting public has proven to be unsteady and inflammatory. It is clear that the proposed coalition of parliamentarians has the democratic right to form a government. I believe a coalition government would put us in a better position to address our economic crisis, and present us at least an 18-month cooling off period.

    The 300 million we save from not having another federal election can be better used in an economic stimulus plan. We need to uphold our parliamentary rules and conventions that give powers to our members of parliament to form a government, to have confidence votes within the House of Commons, to form coalitions, or to dissolve parliament.

    Of course in our political system there will be times that we have political turmoil and see political parties’ battling for public opinion. I am truly grateful that we have a Canadian constitution that allows us to be this dynamic.

    I do however have this uneasiness regarding the Harper government trying to usurp the will of our parliament and confusing our Canadian political system with that of a presidential one, which allows extreme ideological views and a strong focus on our leaders. This can be very confusing to the general public.

    Each Member of Parliament has the responsibility to uphold parliamentary rules and the tenets of our constitution, and it is up to our Canadian Governor-General to help us focus on the task at hand – to make this parliament work and not suspend it based on a political tactic.

    I look forward to the balance that the conservative members can give our parliament as the official opposition.

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