Britain’s voting system is no longer fit for purpose

st century. And it wasn’t just sewers, the Victorians gave us a voting system too. One that has been exposed to be in serious need of an upgrade. The British voting system is no longer fit for purpose. Even before the vote took place, we were subjected to misleading advertising telling us to register online. You can’t. As I imagine most of the 50,000 people that downloaded forms to post off on the last day found out. The post-election shambles seems to have everyone involved ducking for cover. Is it acceptable in 21st Century Britain that those responsible have done nothing to fix a voting system that our first-ever international observer’s describe as “worse than Kenya” and “possibly the most corruptible in the whole world“? It seems blindingly obvious in this digitally enabled age of IT-led process transformation that we should be able to register, vote and count those votes so much more efficiently and reliably if we use the right tools and develop better processes to support them. In my mind, the arguments against electronic voting fail every possible test of logic. It’s bizarre that we demand nothing less than perfection from new systems when the current one is so flawed and open to failure and fraud. It’s not just those locked out of polling stations but also the 14 year old boy who received voting papers and managed to vote without any challenge as well as those who couldn’t enrol in the first place. The US electoral debacles, the Irish experience and the slightly flawed nature of local government e-Voting pilots in the UK might not have helped the cause either (as I write this, CNN is talking of ‘fixing’ voting machines in time for the Philippines’ election without actually explaining what that means). There are serious issues to be addressed with e-Voting and these cannot be under-estimated. But they can be managed and mitigated. In reality the problems aren’t really technical or procedural, they are cultural. If it’s designed properly (and that’s a big if looking at those responsible for the current system), e-Voting is more reliable, more efficient, more flexible and speeds up the count. We can limit this to voting machines in polling stations but equally here is a chance to include internet and mobile solutions, even to consider text voting, and extend the time period, making voting easier and more accessible too. The New Zealand Electoral Commission found that one third of New Zealander’s said they would vote online if they could! I’m completely convinced about the merits of electronic voting but until now I’ve doubted that there was any public desire for change. At this election our democratic systems have been exposed as flawed, failing and out of step. The public is losing faith not just in politicians (that went a long time ago) but in the systems we use to elect them; the voting process and electoral system are both rightly under intense scrutiny. Bringing in e-Voting is a small but necessary step towards rebuilding trust and confidence. After last week there is no compelling argument not to change. The biggest challenge in the ID-averse UK will be verification but whatever we do, how could it possibly be worse than the current system? My Oyster Card would be an improvement on what we have right now.]]>

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