Could the traditional polling station and ballot box become a thing of the past? There have been numerous calls over the past year or so for the introduction of electronic voting in the United Kingdom. There are two forms of e-voting: the first is the replacement of the ballot box with some form of touchscreen and being supervised by an election official to ensure fraud does not occur. This system is used in the USA and appears to be fairly efficient. The second is much more radical: the ability to vote on your own personal device (i.e. a laptop or smartphone).
Campaigns for e-voting claim that the drop in electoral turnout is due to disengagement from the voting system, and this could be rectified with e-voting. However, are young people really disengaged due to an ‘ancient’ voting system? There will be other factors – for example the lack of trust and transparency from politicians to the electorate. The Liberal Democrat vote has crashed following their broken promise regarding the tuition fee cap in 2010, the Tories are suffering the usual punishment towards the governing party and Labour is suffering from weak leadership under Ed Miliband and a loss of identity.
The second form of e-voting would certainly cause a massive increase in electoral turnout, in my opinion. I’m sure the deterrence of having to travel to a polling station and some point in the day, especially difficult if you have a busy job, can be hard to fit in. Whereas, a simple vote online can be done at work or home. However, one of the main problems with online voting is that there can be serious security issues. In Netherlands, the system was used until 2007 and it was stopped due to electoral fraud and security problems. Lord Malloch Brown dismissed this by stating that “they are much more secure than postal votes. The technology we use is very advanced, with high levels of encryption.” The fact that the elections are hold over one day only means it is difficult for hackers to attempt to breach the data. The method also has high profile support from John Bercow – the Speaker of the House of Commons. A Commission which Bercow led into bringing technology into political affairs concluded that e-voting should be brought into use by the 2020 General Election. If the next Government accepts and follows the Commission’s proposals, e-voting could be just 5 years away.