By Tim Kalinowski on June 3, 2021.
A presentation by a Lethbridge-based technology company had city councillors excited during this week’s public meeting, and led to a resolution to support the idea of investigating the potential for secure electronic voting for the 2025 municipal elections.
Veras Technologies Inc. president and CEO Peter Hurd-Watler hoped to underscore for council the immense possibilities of using blockchain technology to vote in municipal elections, and to conduct community engagement surveys and other forms of polling, in a way which was completely secure, costs less than other forms of voting, and had quickly available and viewable results.
And while, he admitted, his company was not ready to take on a municipal election just yet, Hurd-Watler hoped the City of Lethbridge would help support a pilot study program on some other forms of public engagement which could show his company’s technology works as advertised.
Referencing Bitcoin and other crypto-currencies which use the same blockchain technology, Hurd-Watler said it has never been hacked.
“It (blockchain) has never been hacked,” he explained. “It has never been brought down, and because we have a private, permission-based blockchain where we store the servers ourselves and encrypt it, it is even more secure.”
According to Investopedia, blockchain is explained as a type of database which “stores data in blocks that are then chained together.
“As new data comes in it is entered into a fresh block. Once the block is filled with data it is chained onto the previous block, which makes the data chained together in chronological order.”
By chaining data in this way, it cannot be altered or erased, and is thus considered very secure because a user can trace how the data came to be created from origin all the way to completion.
Hurd-Watler said by creating blockchain IDs for voters and using facial recognition access measures on top of having a locally encrypted and secured computer server in Lethbridge this makes electronic voting safe, secure and accessible to all Lethbridge residents who would prefer to vote this way rather than by traditional paper ballots.
Mayor Chris Spearman said he could see the potential for electronic voting to provide an avenue for more public participation in local elections and other City-led citizen engagement efforts. Spearman sponsored a draft motion which would have council support a motion to the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association meeting on June 30 which would request to AUMA to enter into discussions with the Government of Alberta with “the goal of amending the Alberta Local Authorities Election Act to permit electronic voting in time for the 2025 Alberta Municipal Elections.”
The specifically worded motion to be passed on to the AUMA would be debated and voted on at the next council meeting on June 15.
Spearman’s draft motion further requested the city manager consider engaging Veras, or other similar services provided by other companies, to potentially explore a pilot project study on using “secure forms of electronic public consultation” going forward.
The motion passed 7-2 with Councillors Belinda Crowson and Joe Mauro opposed.
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