Woolwich taking part in mock election to test online voting

**Update: Online voting has been extended to Sunday, October 17 on the Township of Woolwich website. The information has since changed since earlier published versions appeared online and in print.

Woolwich residents have a chance to be involved in a practice run for a new technology designed to make online voting more secure.

The mock vote that runs through until Sunday is a project of Brock University political science professor Nicole Goodman. Students in her Canadian Politics in the Digital Age course will be monitoring the experience of those using a verified voting system developed by Kitchener-based Neuvote.

The technology allows for voters to essentially track their vote through the process, providing verification of the ballots they’ve cast. While Ontario municipalities have been using electronic voting since 2003 and the technology has been expanding, the new software takes security to a new level, said Goodman.

“The neat feature about this technology is that it will give you a ballot tracker ID where you’ll be able to track your ballot to essentially verify that it was cast as you intended it to be. And it also gives you a receipt, which you can print and get a paper receipt,” said Goodman. “This has been kind of unheard of, as you always hear people criticize online voting and say that there’s no ability for a paper trail. With the ability to print receipts, that can create a paper trail.”

Goodman’s students will take part in voting and then assess the experience. Working in groups, the students will examine the election’s accessibility, security and privacy, turnout and convenience, election evaluation and user experience.

“It’s really a fantastic learning experience for my students, but I also think it’ll be great to see if people, when they’re using this technology, does this mean that they will trust online voting more? There are some people that are going to trust it no matter what, but others might be a bit more skeptical, so maybe they will like the additional step, the security,” she said.

The Observer trialled the mock voting system. The pizza vote is not an endorsement of any business.

Voting can be carried out through the Woolwich Township website.

Neuvote CEO Matthew Heuman says he is eager to see how regular voters understand and respond to using the end-to-end verifiable technology.

“To verify that your vote was recorded as cast and then counted as recorded is critically important, and the process is quite simple,” said Heuman in a release. “The voters themselves then have the confidence to know — because they’ve checked — that their vote truly was counted exactly as they cast it. What we hope to gain through this project is feedback on how to make that process as simple as possible for voters, in order to help embed that verification step into habit.”

Goodman has been working with Heuman and Woolwich clerk Jeff Smith to facilitate the voting exercise.

“I’m so thankful to Woolwich Township for showing leadership and initiative in this area, because this is going to be the first-ever election, even though it’s a mock election, in Canada that has trialed the technology this way. So it’s really, it’s quite a historic moment,” she said.

The opportunity was welcomed by Woolwich clerk Jeff Smith.

“We are reviewing ways to provide an exceptional election experience for our voters, and we welcome the feedback and analysis provided by students for the 2022 municipal and school board elections.”

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