ontario news watch

Whitehorse bans online voting for local elections over risk of foreign interference

WHITEHORSE — There will be no internet voting for Whitehorse council this year, after a concern of foreign interference prompted a 6-to-1 vote to remove the idea from the city’s proposed election bylaw. 

Whitehorse Coun. Ted Laking proposed the change on Monday and says he’s relieved to see the motion passed, because it will protect the integrity of the upcoming municipal election this October. 

Laking says the city has been a “very strong” proponent of Ukraine and established a sister city relationship with Chortkiv last year, leading to some Yukoner residents being placed on the Russia government’s travel ban.

He says even though Yukon is a “small jurisdiction,” the region is on the radar of some other governments, raising concerns that “foreign actors” such as Russia and China might target their elections. 

He says other concerns about online voting include possible cyberattacks and the loss of the ability to ensure that people cast their ballots in secret. 

Mayor Laura Cabott voted against the change, noting that hundreds of other jurisdictions in Canada use internet voting for their elections, and accessibility would be a key factor in allowing electronic voting. 

Laking said in an interview Tuesday that he and other councillors will be enhancing efforts on increase accessibility for their elections, including possibly extending voting dates and having more polling stations.

“We don’t want to end up in situations where people don’t trust or accept the outcomes of elections. We’ve seen the negative impacts that sort of polarization can have in other countries.”

Laking says they need to do everything they can as leaders to ensure the integrity of the system remains. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 14, 2024. 

The Canadian Press

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