Another Digital Divide? Evidence That Elimination of Paper Voting Could Lead to Digital Disenfranchisement
20 mars 2018
Par Nicole Goodman, Michael McGregor, Jérôme Couture (chargé de cours) et Sandra Breux.
Internet voting is currently used in binding elections in 10 countries, and is being considered in many others. In almost all instances where it has been implemented, it is offered as a complementary method of voting; often with the aim to make voting easier and thereby improve turnout. In many municipalities in Canada, however, the adoption of online voting has meant the simultaneous elimination of paper ballots. Drawing on data from a large survey of paper and Internet voters in the 2014 municipal elections in the province of Ontario, Canada, this article examines the effects of eliminating paper ballots on electors based on their digital literacy. We show that digital access and literacy are strongly related to voting method when paper ballots are an option. When paper ballots are unavailable, however, the voting population is made up of more technologically savvy electors, though this effect is delayed and does not occur in the first election without paper ballots. We interpret this finding to indicate that the elimination of paper ballots can disenfranchise those on the wrong side of the digital divide.