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Consultation and Evaluation Practices in the Implementation of Internet Voting in Canada and Europe

Recommendations for Elections Canada

Whether or not Elections Canada proceeds with a trial of Internet voting, the mission and the goals contained in the agency's Strategic Plan are consistent with a set of future activities related to Internet voting. It is recommended that Elections Canada expand its capacity as a knowledge centre in the evaluation of Internet voting and other voting modes and channels, with a focus on the utilization of such knowledge by all levels of government in Canada. In particular, guidelines for successful methods of public consultation could be offered to all interested jurisdictions. An overall evaluation template, incorporating many of the criteria used in this report, could be published and recommended.

Such evaluations should be framed within a logical hierarchy of results, moving from short-term output-level results, through medium-term outcome-level results, and finally to long-term impact-level results. The evaluations should be guided by standards set by Treasury Board and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (OSCE-ODIHR). The latter has already been mentioned in this report Treasury Board's Directive on the Evaluation Function emphasizes that evaluations should address five key issues: under "relevance," (1) continued need for the program, (2) alignment with government priorities, and (3) alignment with federal roles and responsibilities; and under "performance," (4) achievement of expected outcomes and (5) demonstration of efficiency and economy (Treasury Board 2009).

Informed by international and Canadian experiences, evaluation knowledge and tools should be developed with a focus on methods appropriate to assessing performance in six key outcome-level results that relate to turnout, accessibility, external voting, security, secrecy and empowerment. Other key areas to consider would be e-government, technological development, and trust. These methods would include basic usage statistics from jurisdictions employing Internet voting, financial information on costs and savings, surveys of public opinion, focus groups, case studies and other qualitative methods, together with the use of social media and perhaps other digital and mobile technologies to gather data and analyze findings.

Finally, Elections Canada should be proactive in both hosting and participating in educational and research events on the evaluation of Internet voting (and other comparative modes and channels) to examine in more detail the lessons and methods of the widest range of evaluation studies from across Canada and internationally. The amount of Internet voting occurring in Canada makes Elections Canada well placed to become an international and national knowledge centre on I-voting evaluation and consultation. We suggest that this be built into the next Strategic Plan (presumably covering the period 2014 to 2019). The preparation of tools (guides, protocols, templates, tutorials, and webinars) and the organizing of workshops and conferences could be rolled out over the subsequent three to five years.