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No space for online voting in manifestos

22/05/17

Major parties stick with emphasis on pencil and paper despite earlier signs of move to e-votes

A switch to e-voting looks further away than ever, after the idea was left out of the general election manifestos of all the main political parties.

Tick in boxThe Conservatives insisted the move was a definite non-starter, stating: “We will retain the traditional method of voting by pencil and paper.”

The party’s opposition is no surprise as during the last Parliament it argued such a voting revolution was unwise because there was no way to “check an error”.

This was despite an earlier suggestion that it might be sympathetic to a change. In 2014, when the public was allowed to help choose Zac Goldsmith as the Conservative candidate to become Mayor of London, the process included online voting.

More surprisingly, Labour has apparently dropped its support for digital voting, which the manifesto supports only for “workplace balloting for industrial action votes and internal union elections”.

Three years ago the Opposition argued that it would increase excitement and turnout. Sadiq Khan, the then-shadow justice secretary, suggested a package of reforms, saying: “Holding elections at weekends to raise turnout. Polling opened a week in advance to allow early voting. Electronic voting, making sure it's affordable and isn't open to abuse.”

Weekend trials

In the Liberal Democrat prospectus, the only proposed reform to the mechanics of voting is: “Introduce trials of weekend voting to help raise turnouts in elections.”

The caution comes despite the Speaker’s Commission on Digital Democracy calling, in January 2015, for e-voting to be an “option for all voters” by 2020.

But there are some possible electoral reforms in the pipeline, and they have stirred up concerns. The Conservative manifesto says: “The British public deserves to have confidence in our democracy.

“We will legislate to ensure that a form of identification must be presented before voting, to reform postal voting and to improve other aspects of the elections process to ensure that our elections are the most secure in the world.

“We will retain the traditional method of voting by pencil and paper, and tackle every aspect of electoral fraud.

Hindrance

The plans to force people to show a passport or a driving licence when they vote could hinder millions of people from taking part in future elections, according to the Electoral Commission.

The manifesto also – controversially – proposes a switch to the first-past-the-post voting system for the mayoral and crime commissioner elections, which currently use preferential voting systems.

It also rejects moves to lower the voting age and pledges to repeal the Fixed Term Parliaments Act, which is meant to stipulate general elections every five years.

 

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