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Email election procedure rescinded: secrecy of vote concerns council.

Montreal

The Ecclesiastical Province of Canada, which earlier this year broke new ground and gained international attention by electing its archbishop by e-mail, has rescinded the process that made that possible.

The provincial council, meeting in Montreal this fall, also directed the chancellor of the province to prepare an amendment to the canons (laws) that would make such elections unnecessary in the future.

Last summer, Bishop Andrew Hutchison of Montreal was elected archbishop after council members voted by e-mail in a process believed to be the first such election in the Anglican Communion. He replaced Archbishop Arthur Peters of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island who retired shortly after a meeting of the provincial council.

The ecclesiastical province's laws require a new archbishop to be elected within six months, and this would have meant convening a special meeting at an estimated cost of about $30,000. The e-mail election process was devised as an alternative.

Despite being told that the process was successful and efficient, the provincial council meeting here in late September, heard enough reservations about the confidentiality of the vote and the impersonal nature of e-mail elections to rescind the protocol.

Rev. Alan Perry of Pierrefonds, Que., a self-described technophile who, along with chancellor John Arnold of Halifax, devised the protocol for the vote, reported to the meeting that 97 per cent of eligible voters had cast an electronic ballot and that none of the votes were spoiled. He described the process as both successful and efficient.

However, Bishop Donald Harvey of Eastern Newfoundland and Labrador, who abstained from the original vote in protest, moved that the e-mail protocol be rescinded and that the provincial canons be amended to make such a vote unnecessary in the future.

Bishop Harvey stressed that he had nothing against technology, but that the electronic vote had detracted from the value of the council coming together to elect an archbishop and from a sense that the vote was truly democratic and secret.

"Errors may not have takenplace," he said, "but errors could have taken place. What we did worked but it was a special situation and now we have the time to change our (canons) to make it unnecessary."

Provincial Council approved his motion by a vote of 14 to 11.

The Ecclesiastical Province of Canada includes the dioceses of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, Fredericton, Quebec, Montreal, Western Newfoundland, Central Newfoundland and Eastern Newfoundland and Labrador.
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Author:Carriere, Vianney
Publication:Anglican Journal
Date:Nov 1, 2002
Words:405
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