Chief Electoral Officer Keith Archer is chairing a committee to study options for electronic voting.

Chief Electoral Officer Keith Archer is chairing a committee to study options for electronic voting.

BC to study online voting for provincial, local elections

The B.C. government is exploring options for online voting in B.C.

It won’t happen in time for the provincial election next spring, but the B.C. government is moving ahead with Premier Christy Clark’s pledge to examine online voting at the local and provincial level.

Some municipalities have suggested modernizing elections to make voting more convenient, and reverse the recent trend to lower voter participation. Clark proposed the idea during last year’s B.C. Liberal leadership campaign.

Justice Minister Shirley Bond announced Thursday that she has asked Chief Electoral Officer Keith Archer to set up an expert panel to make recommendations. Archer asked the government last year to give him authority to conduct pilot projects for electronic voting, and to consider extending voter registration to 16- and 17-year-olds, as has been done in Australia and some U.S. states.

During his leadership bid, Health Minister Mike de Jong proposed lowering the voting age from 18 to 16, to encourage younger people to get involved as part of their high school education.

Nola Western, deputy chief electoral officer at Elections B.C., said the panel will likely need until 2014 to recommend changes to the Election Act that would permit online voting. Independent experts on Internet security and electoral administration will be asked to serve on a committee chaired by Archer, with a first meeting expected by October.

Elections BC already has online voter registration, as well as data sharing with the federal voters’ list, ICBC and the B.C. Vital Statistics Agency to keep the voters’ list up to date.

Western said online voting has been used in Halifax and Markham, Ont., but has not yet been tried at the provincial or federal level in Canada.