Rita Smith is a long-time elections volunteer, and the publisher of Road Warrior News/Taxi News.

A healthy skepticism is a positive thing. It’s built into our Parliamentary system: taxpayers pay Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition to watch what the government is doing and hold them accountable.

Most police officers now wear bodycams, so that taxpayers can clearly see what goes on while they do their jobs, and prevent endless he said/she said court cases.

As part of our elections process, scrutineers and elections observers have traditionally been able to see, with their eyes, how votes are processed and counted.

The presence of scrutineers doesn’t mean Canadians don’t trust each other: as in Parliament, or on a police stop, we think it’s a good idea to be able to see what’s happening.

“Trust but verify” are important words.

Unfortunately, in recent years and particularly since the 2020 elections in the United States, the idea that interested parties want to exercise their right to “trust and verify” election results is regarded as some kind of Trumpian conspiracy theory.

In Clarington, Ontario, we just finished our first “phone and internet” voting election, where there were no paper ballots. Voting started October 18th and was a full week long, yet voter turnout was still an abysmal 28%.

This isn’t a surprise, given the number of residents who did not receive their PIN (personal identification number), or who turned up at the local library to vote using its internet service and found the doors locked.

One friend blithely noted, “I never received a PIN in the mail, so I voted using my boyfriend’s PIN.” She’s a sweet lady without a nefarious bone in her body; however, she clearly demonstrated how easy it is to use any PIN to vote.

Perhaps people with actual nefarious motives are the reason many residents never received their PIN. I don’t know. I do know, asking this question means I risk being labeled a “conspiracy theorist.”

On June 2nd, I scrutineered the Ontario election, where I saw no ballots but was asked to sign off on the numbers printed from a machine I saw for the first time on election night. I declined.

In October, I discussed the lack of scrutineer-able ballots with a Clarington candidate who told me, “I see it as a huge problem. The sitting Council rammed phone and internet voting through in the middle of COVID. No one has any idea how we will know if it is accurate.”

“Why don’t you say that publicly?” I asked. He was aghast.

“I can’t! I’ll be called a ‘conspiracy theorist.’ People will turn against me!!” he exclaimed.

I volunteered to scrutineer for two Clarington candidates, one a sitting Councillor. Both were happy to provide me a signed form to act as their scrutineer; however, neither of them had the remotest clue as to how to access the information a scrutineer would usually see.

“The website says your scrutineer is allowed to access the ‘Candidates’ Portal’ to view the voting in real time, but the Town Clerk says only you have the PIN and I need to get it from you,” I explained.

Neither of them had attended the training session, knew their PIN, or was able to provide it to me. I was not able to access the Candidates’ Portal; I have no idea how the vote count was tallied. Neither do these two candidates.

Paper ballots and independent observers work, not only to ensure accuracy but more importantly, to build confidence in our electoral system.

Because if ever people who do have nefarious intentions ever get a hold of the voting machines or access to the elections website, we will never even know. Canada will be over.