B.C. government rejected online voting in 2011 Vancouver election: Implications for 2014 voting system?

Georgia Viaduct Car FreeA shrewd reader with a good memory brought this May 27, 2011 story (“B.C. government rejects online voting in Vancouver fall election“) by Yolande Cole in the Georgia Straight to our attention. We provide excerpts and a link here today, as follow up to our story yesterday, “Fears of potential election fraud already, two months BEFORE Nov 15 Vancouver election.” In 2011, Vancouver city council had approved in principle an online voting project for the November 2011 civic election. Vision Vancouver had proposed and pushed the idea.  The B.C. government rejected it due to serious risks of Internet voting technologies.

The system to be used in the November 2014 election is NOT online voting, but appears to be heavily based on the transmission of data by Internet. Voting this year is not by web, but information transmission may be. The contractor selection process and entire voting system and companies behind it are shrouded in secrecy, and the public has not received enough information. The highest level of public and Provincial government scrutiny is required here, to ensure election errors and fraud cannot and do not occur.

Kudos to the Georgia Straight for having covered this story in 2011, for the public record!

B.C. government rejects online voting in Vancouver fall election
http://www.straight.com/news/bc-government-rejects-online-voting-vancouver-fall-election

by Yolande Cole on May 27, 2011 at 2:45 pm
The B.C. government has rejected a proposal to allow online voting in Vancouver’s municipal election this fall. Continue reading

Fears of potential election fraud already, two months BEFORE Nov 15 Vancouver election

night at City HallCityHallWatch has raised serious concerns about the potential for election fraud in the November 15 civic election with B.C.’s Information and Privacy Commissioner, regarding the City of Vancouver’s new electronic information systems and physical infrastructure procured for the election.

At risk is everything from the procurement process for software and equipment to the back room of the election system.

We have concluded that a reasonable member of the public will have no assurance (1) that the system will produce the correct voting results, free of election fraud, (2) that information will not be exploited for political aims, and (3) that voter information will be protected.

  • This year Vancouver will be using completely new voting systems in the election. Voters will be able to vote from any of 120 stations, and voter information will be transmitted electronically by Internet in real time. The City awarded new contracts (see basic bid details at bottom) in the past few months for hardware, software, and services.
  • Konnech Inc. (“election service software provider”), which won the bid for “electronic voters lists,” appears to be an American company based in Michigan. Is any personal and sensitive information going to be crossing outside of Canada? The public has no way of knowing the answer.
  • DataFix, which reportedly won the bid for “voting station computer hardware and support services” has not responded to multiple requests for corporate information. The company appears to be based in Toronto, but to be a subsidiary of Comprint.
  • CityHallWatch has requested information on the bid winner selection process (number of bids, criteria for selection, etc.). The City refuses to provide any, saying this can only be provided by formal Freedom of Information (FOI) query. Based on previous cases, this could take months and produce a meaningless result. The election is in about eight weeks. Compare the transparency of the procurement process between Vancouver and Toronto, which posts bid decisions in exquisite detail within 24 hours.
  • CityHallWatch has requested a copy for both bids of a “privacy impact assessment” (required by BC legislation. The City has not indicated whether or not they actually conducted the required assessments, and tells us to do an FOI query.
  • All three companies are secretive, and short on corporate transparency — despite the fact that earning the public trust should be the highest factor in companies responsible for election and voting systems. DataFix  and Konnech provide no information about corporate governance (owners, directors, executives, etc.). Comprint does not even have a website. DataFix has failed to even acknowledge receipt of our e-mails. None of the companies provide personal names or contact information. It’s all general.
  • Numerous flaws and abuses are possible. We believe the public can be justified in being concerned about the potential for information to be intercepted for strategic use in real time during the election hours (e.g., by a political party, to “get out the vote”).
  • Another concern is the thin wall between data management systems at the City of Vancouver, and Vision Vancouver’s political machine. And yet another threat is the thin wall between certain polling services and Vision Vancouver, which has the money for the state-of-the-art data mining services and management systems. This may be addressed in future articles.
  • Our conclusion is that voters are at risk of voter and election fraud in November 2014. And that neither the City of Vancouver nor the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner can or will do anything to assure the public that this election will have integrity. It should not be up to citizens to for the burden of proof that the system has integrity, but for our civic government to do so for the public.
  • Stay tuned! We will continue investigating to see what organizations and tools are available to allay fears on these issues. The public needs to know that the 2014 election and voting systems will have integrity and be free of manipulation. Continue reading

Urban Development Institute – Meet the (Mayoral) Candidates Oct 7

Urban Development Institute Vancouver breakfast – Meet the Candidates
October 7, 2014
7:30 AM – 9:30 AM
http://udi.memberzone.com/events/details/udi-vancouver-breakfast-meet-the-candidates-94

With municipal elections approaching in mid-November, hear from the candidates running for the top job in the City of Vancouver.

An open invitation to Vancouver’s mayoral candidates to address the UDI in a seminar. UDI oct7.2014bfast

Continue reading

City abruptly quashes election 2014 candidate video program. Can it be reinstated?

Leveling the playing field: Who has enough money to reach voters?

Leveling the playing field: Who has enough money to reach voters?

(Updated Sept 19 – Over 24 hours later, no response from Chief Election Officer to our questions. See below.) The City has mysteriously and abruptly cancelled what would have been a popular program for election candidates and a valuable service for voters.

The City of Vancouver was planning to post “personalized video profiles” for 2014 civic election candidates on its website. Some candidates were preparing their materials for this, but the program was abruptly cancelled in the past several hours. The City’s official web page for “Run for Office in Vancouver” (http://vancouver.ca/your-government/run-for-office.aspx) currently says “several factors have arisen that prevent us from providing the service for this election.”

Here is a screenshot of what is stated at this moment on the City’s website:

candidate video profile

Today, CityHallWatch wrote to Janice MacKenzie, City Clerk and Chief Election Officer, asking her to indicate (1) specifically what all those factors are, (2) when and in what setting was the decision made to discontinue this planned service, and (3) who was involved in the decision. The offer to candidates was that the city would shoot a free 60 second video of any candidate that submits nominations papers, and that these videos would be made available on the candidate’s online profile.

Having one central place for candidate videos, officially sponsored, would have helped level the playing field in this election, making it more about ideas and integrity than about political donations and the power of money. The playing field at the moment is going to be extremely unfair and undemocratic, and CityHallWatch has serious concerns about the integrity of voter information and voting hardware systems. (See “Fears of potential election fraud already“.) Continue reading

Should Vancouver tax owners of vacant condos? Question raised in MetroNews poll

COPE Mayoral candidate Meena Wong

Meena Wong

As the civic election gets into full gear, a number of key questions are being raised about how Vancouver works and many basic assumptions are being challenged.

Meena Wong, the mayoral candidate for COPE, has wondered whether the City of Vancouver should place an additional tax on condos that are deliberately left vacant. Absentee land owners, she argues, have a duty towards the city.

A poll in a recent article in MetroNews by Emily Jackson asks readers to weigh in on the question:  Should Vancouver tax owners of vacant condos? (Sept 17, 2014).

The article states that in some parts of Vancouver such as Coal Harbour, the condo vacancy rate is almost 25%. This is based on research done by Andy Yan. Taxing vacant units can be a means encourage more housing stock to be put into the rental market, and to help increase vacancy rates.

Land Transfer Tax

There are other ways to capture funds from real estate purchases. We’ll mention one here.

One measure that other cities have implemented is a land transfer tax. Toronto has a separate land transfer tax that is collected when a property changes hands; this is on top of a provincial land transfer tax. This tax is progressive and increases as properties go up in value. If properties are flipped frequently by speculators, then the City would capture some of the sale price each time. Currently only the Province of B.C. collects a property transfer tax (PTT). Some jurisdictions phase out land transfer taxes with time, so if someone buys and holds property for a long time, they don’t pay this tax (or pay a minimal tax).

Other measures

A number of other measures are possible to encourage rentals. In a tweet, Sandy Garossino reminded us of an article by retired BC Supreme Court judge Ian Pitfield that appeared in the Vancouver Sun last year: Vacancy tax would boost rental market (May 23, 2013).

Continue reading

City of Vancouver salaries reveal big spending on communications staff (Travis Lupick, Georgia Straight, 16-Sep-2014)

Vancouver City HallThis article appeared in the Georgia Straight today. CityHallWatch asks if readers can point us to comparative information for other major Canadian cities. Send an e-mail to citizenYVR [at] gmail.com.

City of Vancouver salaries reveal big spending on communications staff

http://www.straight.com/news/729641/city-vancouver-salaries-reveal-big-spending-communications-staff

by TRAVIS LUPICK on SEP 16, 2014 (text copied below)

THE CITY OF Vancouver spent $2.2 million on spin doctors in 2013.

That’s according to data obtained through a freedom of information request and supplied to the Straight by the citizen-run website CityHallWatch.

The money was paid to 40 employees whose titles indicate they performed communications work for the city, the park board, or Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services. (The FOI response excludes information related to the police department.) Continue reading