Canada’s first major experiment with Internet voting is being heralded as a success by the political party that organized it and by the company that conducted the election. On January 25, nearly 45,000 voters selected Jack Layton as the new leader of the New Democratic Party of Canada. Those electors had a choice of using paper ballots, which had been mailed out prior to the convention, or voting electronically. Some Internet votes were cast in the advance poll; others were cast on the day of the election itself. NDP federal secretary Chris Watson tells Network Letter the ratio of online voting to paper ballots was higher than he had expected. "The system worked like a charm in the advance voting period, which ran from 11:59 p.m. January 2 until 5 p.m. Friday afternoon January 24," he states. "The 25th we did experience some delay getting it up and running. There were a number of factors including this SQL worm that seemed to be cruising North America that day and slowing the Internet down." The worm itself did not cause the slowdown, but officials at Election.com, which conducted the balloting for the party, heard about the disruption and decided to err on the side of caution."We thought we were secure but when we experienced, I’ll call it an anomaly, we did what everybody else did," Election.com VP operations Earl Hurd explains to NL. "We said ‘are we 100% positive?’ And in effect, we were impacted because the worm impacted everybody else. But we weren’t directly affected." Election.com immediately shut down the voting to guarantee the integrity of the process. Once the company recognized that its system was secure, it booted up the computers and continued the polling. Hurd says 2,500 people voted in the first 15 minutes following the resumption. The NDP’s Watson had hoped that Internet voting would permit people from across Canada to get involved (NL, July 15/02). The results were better than he had predicted. "I am very pleased. I think it was exactly the right thing to do," he offers. "We had 11 or 12, what some people referred to as mini-conventions in different communities across the country where NDPers gathered to watch the convention and had some computers there so they could all vote at the same place and time and that was kind of exciting." Even those who gathered in Toronto for the convention used electronic voting, he notes. Election.com set up a wide area network connecting the main conference, regional gatherings, and individual voters to its computer tabulating the results. Hurd reports that veterans of the social democratic movement were pleasantly surprised by the process. "We had some anecdotal comments about people who had gone to the NDP election in the past and apparently the voting process was a little bit lengthier than it was . We had most of the people vote inside of half an hour." Election.com has conducted several high profile elections over the past few years. It organized municipal elections online in Liverpool and Sheffield England and carried out work for the Democratic Party in the United States. The Arizona Democratic primary was conducted online and delegates to the national convention in Los Angeles used the Election.com system to select Al Gore and Joe Lieberman as their candidates. The additional scrutiny of the NDP vote was slightly unnerving for Hurd. "This one was broadcast nationwide," he laughs. "It was probably a little more gutwrenching from that perspective but in terms of the actual technical complexity I think the only thing that really caused us undue concern on that day was the fact that we had an environment or an atmosphere of tremendous uncertainty because of what was happening to the Internet in general."