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Electronic voting - a risky option


4th October 2007

Jonathan Djanogly gave a speech on electronic voting to the Open Rights Group during the Conservative Party Conference at Blackpool.

Integrity of the electoral systemThe integrity of an electoral system is essential to give legitimacy to any Parliament. It governs the public's one opportunity to dictate how and by whom the country should be run. If the public has no confidence in the electoral system, the entire democratic system is called into question

Pitfalls

I say here today that the integrity of our electoral system is not only in question, it is in grave danger. There are numerous examples of the malaise that has hit our electoral system; fraud, administrative incompetence, lack of registration, low turnout, postal vote inadequacies, wildly unequal constituency sizes and over representation of our urban areas. Clearly, something must be done to remedy this situation.

E-voting pilots

Yet, despite all the problems facing our electoral system, the Government continues to prioritise turnout - not least through its belief that this will improve if it extends the means by which people can vote.

The May 2007 elections saw five local authorities (Rushmoor Borough Council, Sheffield City Council, Shrewsbury & Atcham Borough Council, South Bucks District council and Swindon Borough Council) pilot a range of e-voting solutions, including remote internet voting, telephone voting and the provision of electronic polling stations enabling a 'vote anywhere' environment on polling day. The use of remote e-voting channels required, as an additional security measure, pre-registration by electors, and in three of the four pilot schemes (Sheffield, Shrewsbury & Atcham and Swindon) this seems to have contributed to significantly lower proportion of electors opting for e-voting channels compared with the 2003 pilots.

Report of Electoral Commission

The electoral commission reported that "there remain issues with the security and transparency of the solutions and the capacity of the local authorities to maintain control over the elections".

The Commission recommended that "no further e-voting is undertaken until the following four elements are in place:

  • A comprehensive electoral modernisation strategy outlining how transparency, public trust and cost effectiveness can be achieved;
  • A central process to ensure that sufficiently secure and transparent e-voting solutions that have been tested and approved can be selected by local authorities;
  • Sufficient time allocated for planning e-voting pilots; and
  • Individual registration.

The Commission cannot support any further e-voting in the absence of a framework incorporating these recommendations", and we would certainly agree with this as a minimum.



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