Elections Nova Scotia has awarded a contract for electronic voting services, but it won’t be an option on the next ballot for most people.
The independent elections agency issued a request for proposals (RFP) in September 2022, as the Halifax Examiner reported.
On Tuesday, it announced Scytl Canada Inc. was the winner. The Spanish company has run municipal elections for Halifax. In 2012, it ran HRM’s e-voting on its own. In 2016, it teamed up with locally-owned Intelivote Systems.
Scytl won the contract for $349,500.
That figure, according to Naomi Shelton, Elections Nova Scotia director of policy and communications, “covers the software configuration and development of new elector registration portal according to ENS requirements and the cost of deploying the Nova Scotia Internet voting solution in an election event.”
Shelton declined to say how many other bidders there were and who they are, citing provincial procurement policies.
The system won’t be in place for an upcoming, though unscheduled, by-election in Preston, Shelton said. It will be in place for the next general election in 2025. But that’s only for Nova Scotian members of the Canadian Armed Forces stationed outside the province.
“The plan is to utilize internet voting for military members stationed outside the province in the provincial general election in 2025,” Shelton said in an email.
“After that election we will do careful evaluation and consider the scope of internet voting in the future.”
The provincial government amended the Elections Act in 2021 to allow CAF members to vote electronically. It hasn’t extended that right to the rest of the electorate.
But in the RFP, Elections Nova Scotia was aiming wider.
“ENS intends to extend to all Nova Scotia eligible electors the option to cast their vote using the Internet in upcoming election events, when possible,” the RFP said.
What could possibly go wrong? Municipal elections are one thing. Provincial and Federal elections are quite another. Paper and pencil, X marks the spot and put in the box yourself (or at least watch someone do it very closely). The manual counting part is where the trust comes in and it is well supervised and monitored by all parties. This is one thing were tried and true is just that.
If I were a CF member, I’d ask for the method ENS will use to prove of a continuous chain of custody for each individual ballot. A computer can’t check itself and a stream of internet data is ephemeral so it is not a proof.