Is voting in Canada with a pencil and paper secure ?

So as far back as 2003, Robert Cringely of InfoWorld was commenting on the huge brouhaha surrounding the technical SNAFU (yes, it’s an acronym) that exploded along with e-voting systems which Diebold launched over in the U.S.

As I was voting in our Canadian Federal Election earlier this evening, I crouched down behind the cardboard privacy barrier and unfolded my paper ballot and saw the lead pencil placed on the table. I thought to myself … “hey, anyone could use an eraser and change my vote!” … so after getting home and peeling some shrimp for my election night shrimp curry and basmati dinner, I decided to do some Googling (as Asking, and Liveing and Yahoo!ing) for thoughts on a pencil as a voting instrument (vs. gel pen, for example)…

One of the 1st and most common results was a 2003 article by Robert Cringely done for PBS at the time, and I loved his adoration of the Canadian voting system (and how our voting cost per elector is just $1.80 or so vs $10 per voter in the US…)

My model for smart voting is Canada. The Canadians are watching our election problems and laughing their butts off. They think we are crazy, and they are right.

Forget touch screens and electronic voting. In Canadian Federal elections, two barely-paid representatives of each party, known as “scrutineers,” are present all day at the voting place. If there are more political parties, there are more scrutineers. To vote, you write an “X” with a pencil in a one centimeter circle beside the candidate’s name, fold the ballot up and stuff it into a box. Later, the scrutineers AND ANY VOTER WHO WANTS TO WATCH all sit at a table for about half an hour and count every ballot, keeping a tally for each candidate. If the counts agree at the end of the process, the results are phoned-in and everyone goes home. If they don’t, you do it again. Fairness is achieved by balanced self-interest, not by technology. The population of Canada is about the same as California, so the elections are of comparable scale. In the last Canadian Federal election the entire vote was counted in four hours. Why does it take us 30 days or more?

Also note how he mentions that any voter can sit in and take part in the ballot counting process.

We truly do live in the greatest country in the world, and anyone who doesn’t exercise their right to vote is truly ignorant of our bliss – at least as far as free and fair voting goes.

Full article by Robert X. Cringely