Update: As Daniel has decided to accuse me of dishonest reporting, please see the end of this article for more information that should explain the whole situation a little better.
Sir Alistair Graham, Chairman of the UK’s parliamentary Committee on Standards in Public Life, has slammed the concept of e-voting in the UK, saying that a rise in electoral fraud in postal voting means that developing electronic voting systems should be postponed or scrapped.
“I’m no Luddite,” he said, but made it clear that a democracy was not “a pick ‘n’ mix commodity. Voting is a civic duty, it is not like shopping.”
Graham suggested that a decline in numbers of people voting was not fixable by making the voting process easier – all that did was give another opportunity for fraudsters to jump in.
Plans were in place to pilot telephone, text, and electronic voting during the May local elections. This should be put on hold. The current situation is “akin to a bank which secures an individual’s transactions but had not verified that individual’s identity when he opened his account”.
I’m inclined to agree, particularly that voter apathy is not going to be remedied by giving them more varied methods of voting.
Update: Here’s the situation as I believe it is. Perhaps if this is wrong, someone could helpfully comment and fill in the gaps, rather than merely telling me I’m wrong and could do so much better:
* The current voting system (not technological – you go in and put your cross(es) on a piece of paper and put it in the box) is flawed and open to abuse, because the head of the household takes responsibility for filling in who is eligible to vote at that residence, which not surprisingly is open to abuse.
* The way to fix this system is to require each individual to register.
* Sir Alistair Graham has called for new methods of voting, including by text message, email, and the Internet, to be put on hold until the existing system can be made watertight.
* New systems are likely to have teething problems and there is potential for these also to be abused. It’s vital that these new plans do not detract from the goal of having a fraud-free voting system, in whatever form that takes.
* Quote from Sir Alistair Graham: “Postal voting on demand, e-voting or telephone voting? They all sound such handy innovations; such a modern way to help busy consumers who cannot tear themselves away from the television or the shops to cast a conventional vote. But all the glib talk about the need to find customer-friendly ways of voting by post, text and the Internet has ignored the hard truth that once you allow ballot papers to leave polling stations, the opportunities for fraud multiply and the secrecy of the ballot is compromised.“