OneFeather founder hopes to give First Nation and their Members the power of more efficient and effective governance through electronic voting.
Lawrence Lewis is changing election and voting practices for First Nations in Canada.
Lewis is the founder of OneFeather, a technology company that delivers leading technologies for First Nations elections & referendums, and member engagement delivered through a Member Registrar focussed digital platform built specifically for the unique needs of First Nations in Canada.
Originally created through collaboration with Canada and First Nations to provide an electronic voting solution for Land Code ratification votes, OneFeather quickly evolved to provide a service for all types of voting events happening in First Nation communities requiring “secret” ballot voting solutions. Based on client feedback and guidance OneFeather has added additional features and tools to better serve First Nation governments and their members.
Leadership selection in First Nations
The majority of First Nations governments are composed of a Chief and Council who are responsible for making decisions on behalf of the First Nation and its members. The selection of a Chief and Council can be held in one of four ways. Following the steps outlined in the Indian Act and the Indian Band Election Regulations; using the new and optional First Nations Elections Act according to a community’s constitution as part of a self-government agreement (a Treaty), or using a “Custom Code” community leadership selection process.
Leadership selection under the Indian Act
Most First Nations in Canada hold elections under the Indian Act and the Indian Band Election Regulations. Under the act, elections must be held every two years. A typical election under the Indian Act may include the appointment of an Electoral Officer to manage the overall election process and all related activities; the opportunity for voters to nominate candidates for the positions of Chief and Council; the ability to vote in person on-reserve or by mail-in ballot, or the counting of votes and declaration of elected candidates.
Lewis says OneFeather is hoping with their easy-to-use, safe-and-secure technology, it will change the way First Nations people think when it comes to voting (and perhaps influence the way all Canadians vote).
“Issues of time, weather, geography, health, expense, anonymity and convenience should not be barriers to participate in important governance decisions and mandates, so by removing these barriers, this will allow people to participate in their First Nation democratic processes and contribute to important decisions in a time and place that is convenient and instantaneous.”
“Voting on OneFeather is designed to be fast and easy with the average time requirement being less than 2 minutes from registration to confirmation to verification to actually completing your vote on the subject matter,” says Lewis, adding communications are currently conducted through email, with text messaging coming soon.
“We can demonstrate that when given the option, at least 50% of active electors will choose to vote electronically and that overall voter participation will increase by as much as 30%,” adds Lewis.
Lewis, a member of the We Wai Kai Nation from central Vancouver Island, has dedicated his career to working with First Nation peoples throughout Western Canada as an educator, political activist, policy writer, environmentalist, Nation leader and innovator of technology. With more than 15 years of elections management, One Feather has become the leaders of First Nations elections administration and pioneers of electoral technology and best practices.
“Ultimately, OneFeather is about using technology to enhance the best practices and increase the reach of democracy in our modern world,” Lewis says.
Since December 2016, OneFeather has grown 207% in terms of new client acquisition during the first 2 quarters of 2017 for its electronic vote management and Member registrar services. Overall, OneFeather currently has 52 total First Nation clients (from BC to Ontario) utilizing its services. Lewis says their track record and proven results are a big reason for the increase.
“Our service covers all aspects of the electronic vote including creating the ballot and uploading and staging membership and voter’s lists, sending the vote invitation email and reminders, dealing with any queries, reporting results and assisting with any audit requirements to ensure the best possible result,” Lewis says, adding that One Feather has the ability to turn a voting event entirely over to an external Electoral Officer too.
Less than 5 cents per member, per month
“Once a First Nation community has engaged in our services, the average cost for a First Nation to subscribe to OneFeather’s suite of services and applications is between 3.5-4.5 cents per member per month and is free to use by the First Nation members.”
One issue that gets asked continuously when it comes to online voting is about security. Lewis says OneFeather places security above all other priorities.
“Our security and data management architecture has been exhaustively tested and is monitored 365/24/7. Our cloud-based technologies offer advanced security and encryption and data protection, back up redundancies, access and user controls, and monitoring,” says Lewis.
“We support multiple authentication standards including different sign-in options such as sign-in links sent via the OneFeather email system, PINs and various forms of personal data can be used as authentication methods. Encryption methods allow personal data to be used for authentication without the need to transfer any readable personal data – ensuring the highest possible standards for member personal information protection, confidentiality and anonymity.”
Lewis is happy with the results from OneFeather to date, but would like to see it grow even more.
“Our goal is to grow OneFeather in a continuing way that meets the needs of our First Nation clients, always iterating and creating value that matters, which demonstrably contributes to healthier, happier and wealthier First Nation communities,” Lewis says. “We believe our technology has global application in terms secret ballot voting and member registrar needs, but for now we are focussed on servicing the needs of our brothers and sisters across Canada.”
We are a “First Nation” technology company and are proud to be leading the conversation regarding technology development, best practices in digital technology application, and the deployment of actual technologies to better serve First Nations.”