Bringing E-Voting to First Nations Communities: OneFeather

“If it’s your turn to speak, you hold the feather, or alternatively, a talking stick,” says Lawrence Lewis, referencing the traditional tool used when council meets among some First Nations communities.

“[The name] OneFeather represents that this is a communication tool to make a cultural and social connection,”says Lewis.

Victoria-based OneFeather provides First Nations communities with a modern, mobile, permission based communication platform that increases the opportunity for engagement through messaging among private online groups.

Through the app, all stakeholders in a First Nations community can speak and be heard on important topics. “This is about engagement and dialogue. It’s not about a one-way flow of information,” Lewis says.

He also says the question for these communities is, “How are you going to use modern technology to engage with your members in a way they want to be engaged?”

After developing the communications app, Lewis realized that OneFeather would make a suitable platform for electronic voting. OneFeather worked with the government and several Nations to develop a platform, an intuitive user experience, a simple verification process, and the security and secrecy requirements necessary to ensure the integrity of a vote.

After members download the app, they receive a push notification when there is a referendum or election, and through the messaging feature, they can talk to electoral officers in real time.

Through the feature, it takes less than two minutes to go from opening the app to full verification and vote. As a result, OneFeather has been used in several referendums.

Lewis states that in the recent Malahat First Nation Land Code referendum, over 75% of the votes cast were done electronically through OneFeather, primarily from smartphones. The referendum also saw a significant increase in voter participation.

“Engagement goes up as convenience goes up,” Lewis says. Complementing polling stations and mail-in ballots, the e-voting platform is one more item in the toolkit to increase turnout.

The long term goal for OneFeather is to eventually become the mobilebased solution for municipal, provincial, and federal elections.

“As an Aboriginal company, our focus right now is on First Nations communities, but we’re always planning and building and networking to get to the next level,” says Lewis.