The province is moving ahead in determining whether it's feasible to cast your ballot from the comfort of your own home.
On Thursday, the B.C. government announced their official request to the province's chief electoral officer (CEO) that he put together an independent panel to study the potential for using Internet voting.
Justice Minister and Attorney General Shirley Bond said she is confident the panel will provide the government with sound advice and that the CEO will make sure the work is done and quickly and thoroughly as possible.
"All of us are interested in increasing the voter turnout, whether provincial or municipal," she said. "So it is time we explored whether or not we can maintain the integrity of elections while considering new options."
The Union of B.C. Municipalities has also supported the use of online voting in municipal elections, to provide greater access to democracy for those unable to make it to traditional polling stations.
Last year, the group endorsed a resolution to ask the province to implement the necessary legislative changes required for Internet voting in the next municipal election.
There is no provision for casting votes via Internet or phone in B.C. under the current legislation at any level of government. The cities of Vancouver and Surrey both made moves towards using electronic voting in the last municipal election, but their efforts were shot down by the province.
During her leadership campaign, Premier Christy Clark expressed her support for alternative voting methods and Elections BC published a discussion paper on Internet voting last August.
The panel, to be chaired by chief electoral officer Keith Archer and four other selected individuals, is going to expand on that document.
"It's taking it into the next steps from the review of what would the introduction of Internet voting do in B.C. to the electoral process and what are the things that must be considered," said Elections BC communications manager Don Main.
One of the main issues is security and maintaining the secrecy of an individual's vote.
"So how can that be accomplished in an Internet world? We also have to have some sort of tracking system in making sure that it's that person that is voting and... that there's no fraud," Main said.
In Elections BC's discussion paper, one of the obstacles to security identified was the security of one's personal computer, which could be vulnerable to viruses.
"In a remote voting context, the computers used to record and transmit votes are outside the control of the electoral agency and there is, therefore, not a lot that election officials can do to address these issues," the paper states.
Intelivote Systems Inc. has facilitated Internet polling in municipal elections in Ontario and their home province of Nova Scotia and the company head said that wouldn't be possible without certain provisions in place.
"It's really the basic tenet of the system," said president Dean Smith. "You can't be in the business unless you've paid particular attention to that aspect of the requirements."
The way Intelivote and other e-voting systems work is to provide voters with a unique PIN they use to access a telephone system or website to cast their ballot.
Smith said it's analogous to entering a polling station, presenting identification and having your name struck off the voting list.
"Your PIN authenticates you to allow you to get a ballot presented to you, but once you fill out the ballot information, that information is detached from it," he explained.
But like any technology, it's not without its glitches. During the 2010 local elections in Ontario, the system was overloaded with candidates logging on repeatedly to check voter turnout, causing a 57-minute delay where some voters couldn't get through the slowed-down system.
This caused many municipalities to extend their voting times by an extra hour and for one town to extend their vote for an extra day.
Troubleshooting that problem was an easy fix, said Smith. "We just grayed out the button [so it couldn't be accessed more than once] and put the candidate module feature on another computer so it would never interfere with voting again."
And the hiccup hasn't appeared to deter cities from using electronic voting either exclusively or as an additional method to traditional polling stations.
"There was a total of 44 [municipalities] that voted electronically using Internet and telephone in 2010 in Ontario and we fully expect that number to double in 2014," said Intelivote president Dean Smith, adding there are "seven or eight very large cities" in B.C. that have already expressed interest if legislation is passed in time for the next municipal election.
Main said he doesn't know what the timeline of the review will be. The panel is likely to be put together by late September, but he doesn't expect there to be any changes instituted prior to the provincial election as any recommendations they make still have to go through the Legislative Assembly.
"Having something in place for 2013 is probably not realistic," he said.