TalkPolitics Report: We Aren’t Ready for Remote E-Voting

 

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By Managing Director Matt Gillow

 

 

TalkPolitics believes wholeheartedly in modernising Westminster.

In our increasingly digital, technological age – we believe that archaic practices are losing their place. Whilst tradition will always be important, it seems sentimental, and arguably naïve, to protect outdated systems and quirks when technology means we can be more efficient, more proactive, and simply more democratic.

 

There are many who agree with us. It’s why the question of e-voting, or rather, remote digital voting, has raised its head for consideration. Giving voters, whom are becoming more technologically literate (and busier) by the day, another channel through which to voice an opinion, seems like a logical next step.

 

So why not make voting easier? The likelihood is that, did casting a ballot take even less time than it currently does, more would vote. A small sum of money would be saved in distributing ballots and in administrative costs each election cycle. A quicker turnaround between ticking that all important box, and hearing the results, means a generally more efficient democratic process.

 

However, as with any dramatic reform to tradition, there is opposition. Remote, digital voting, disregards the sacred concept of secrecy in your ballot. Voters are easily traced to their choice. It becomes inherently easier for an apathetic individual to ‘sell’ their vote or give it away to their activist friend, parent or colleague – and as voter fraud potentially soars, the very real risk of outside interference in the electoral process rises with it.

 

Security; that’s where the issue lies. In an independent report into online voting in Estonia (where it has been practiced on a number of occasions) researchers found an alarming potential for cyber attacks. The summary of the report states: “Close inspection of videos published by election officials reveals numerous lapses in the most basic security practices. They appear to show the workers downloading essential software over unsecured Internet connections, typing secret passwords and PINs in full view of the camera, and preparing election software for distribution to the public on insecure personal computers, among other examples.” In short, we are relying wholeheartedly on the professionalism of civil servants and the security services – for whom, whilst undoubtedly up to the task, we would be prescribing a dramatically increased workload.

 

In our current hostile political climate, where accusations fly of Russian interference in both the US and French elections – and the British government has our intelligence services on high alert for cyber threats – we believe remote voting would be a risk too serious to take. Whilst TalkPolitics remains committed to bringing our democracy into the modern day, we believe the integrity of it is too important until we are certain of our cyber security. Progress for the sake of progress is no progress at all.

 

A prescription, then; whilst we certainly shouldn’t discount the potential of remote voting in reducing apathy, and improving our currently dismal voter turnout figures, there are incremental steps that we should be taking first. Coinciding with funding for research into cyber security, TalkPolitics believes that voting, at election time, should be integrated more fully into the day to day schedules of the electorate – so that work and family commitments don’t challenge an individual’s right to cast a ballot. We want the government, and councils, to start placing polling booths in supermarkets and schools, universities and shopping centres; so voting becomes a part of everyday life.

 

The apathy displayed by the turnout figures in our recent local and mayoral elections should have been a wake-up call for government, and opposing parties, that thousands of people are not having their voice heard. Time to change that.

 

 

 

Don’t just take our word for it: for further reading, see –

 

https://estoniaevoting.org/findings/

 

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/236595201_Towards_Remote_Electronic_Voting_Systems

 

http://www.digitaldemocracy.parliament.uk/documents/Open-Up-Digital-Democracy-Report.pdf

Got an idea about reducing apathy? We’d love to hear it. Contact team@talk-politics.com to talk through your policy!

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