Indigenous communities should be able to choose online voting, especially during COVID-19
Indigenous communities should be able to vote using the voting methods they choose, especially during a pandemic. Online voting is a method many Indigenous communities have deployed in recent years and others are looking to use.
While most governments have been able to make their own decisions around postponing their elections and how to conduct them during COVID-19, First Nations have felt the effects of colonial voting regulations that limit their autonomy over their own voting processes.
The Indian Act and First Nations Election Act create governments with elected chiefs and councils and place strict rules on most aspects of First Nations governance, including fixed election terms and the types of ballots that can be used. Neither piece of legislation includes a provision to extend elections or votes in crisis situations.
At the beginning of the pandemic, First Nations whose elections fall under the Indian Act or First Nations Elections Act, were forced to proceed with planned elections despite public health risks. Iskatewizaagegan (Shoal Lake) First Nation was one such community. At that same time, other elections in Canada were being postponed (like New Brunswick’s municipal elections).