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Would online voting work in Toronto?

Last Updated Oct 15, 2018 at 9:05 am EDT

With voters heading to the polls in just over a week, there are multiple ways to cast your ballot in Toronto — but voting online isn’t one of them.

Meanwhile, cities like Burlington have had the option for years.

“You can vote from anywhere; that was the reason we introduced it,” said city clerk Angela Morgan. “It’s become a real convenience factor I think for a lot of people.”

Burlington residents use their voter information notice to register online. Within 24 hours, they’re given a personal identification number which they then use to cast their online vote.

“It’s simple and effective and safe,” said Burlington resident Brian Dean. “I think it’s been tested in a lot of other municipalities.”

But another resident, Janet Black, said she’s concerned about security.

“The more I read or hear about anything — banking, Facebook — nothing’s really safe,” she said. “So that would probably be one reason I would prefer to actually go show your identification and your card.”

Graeme Hirst, a computer science professor at the University of Toronto, said banks have more experience with online security.

“Voting online with a PIN feels a lot like doing banking online with a PIN, but banks have put a lot of effort into making sure their systems are very secure,” he explained. “Online voting systems can use much the same technology, but they’re not necessarily as well-developed, and they’re only as good as the people in the organization that (are) deploying the system.”

Burlington does perform a third-party security audit of their voting system before every election to test for weaknesses.

Morgan admitted the process requires a lot of resources to ensure security and said it would up to Toronto to decide if it’s right for the city.

“We are able to successfully do it because of the size of our city,” she said. “I think everybody would have to evaluate how they do voting and the resources they have in order to do it in bigger places.”