It is time we starting voting by internet
November 20, 2012 2 Comments
Lest I be accused of being churlish I want to begin by offering my congratulations to Nick Alston on his victory in the Essex Police and Crime Commissioner election. He has done what all good candidates do, and that is to beat his opposition. He cannot be blamed for the shambolic way the elections were conducted, and in many ways is as much a victim as anyone else. I do not doubt that whatever electoral system was used, and whenever the election was held, he was the likeliest victor.
What is becoming clearer as the analysts pick over Thursday’s results is that these elections could scarcely been more badly conducted.
The following table is borrowed from the Electoral Reform Society, and their recent press releases contain much useful information.
|Devon and Cornwall||Con||15.14%||5%||Tony Hogg|
|Cambridgeshire||Con||14.77%||5.3%||Sir Graham Bright|
|Thames Valley||Con||12.88%||5.5%||Anthony Stansfeld|
Nick Alston has the unenviable challenge of trying to live down being the PCC with the worst (lowest) mandate. As Katie Ghose (Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society) says: “our new Commissioners worked hard getting elected under incredibly difficult circumstances, and the Government did them no favours. These feeble mandates were guaranteed from day one, and the 41 winners will have to find a way of living with them.”
The shaming fact is this: these elections have made the record books. This is the lowest turnout in any national election in British history. We did better in elections fought whilst combatting the forces of Nazism in World War Two.
There will be many theories and many ideas as to where to go from here and how we can engage and run our elections better. I offer just idea for now – let’s start using technology.
There is no good reason why we cannot vote using our mobiles, our telephones, and our computers. All arguments about security and audit can be answered, and the current low-tech way we run elections may have integrity, but it is clearly missing that most vital of ingredients – engagement.
This does not have to be a rushed implementation, but since we already use the internet for voter registration and for finding out who our candidates are (many candidates and parties have websites nowadays, although I appreciate this is far from universal) then voting via the web does not strike me as such a big step. Crucially this achieves two wins: it will see increased turnout, and will lower costs as ballot papers, polling stations and counting clerks are consigned to the history book.