Thursday, August 14, 2014

British politician makes strong case for e-voting in UK

E-voting technology is quickly gaining in popularity in many countries all around the world, but the United Kingdom continues to lag behind. At least one British politician is aiming to change that. Commons Speaker John Bercow is making a major push toward updating the British electoral system to integrate more e-voting technology and innovations. While some of his opponents worry that this would dramatically change the electoral process, Bercow says that the shift to e-voting as an option should not be seen as “earth-shattering,” but rather as a natural step in moving the nation forward.

There are many possibilities for how e-voting could be implemented in Great Britain and Bercow is open to exploring a range of options. He understands how many people, particularly young adults, have come to seen smartphones, tablets and other digital devices as extensions of themselves. These devices can already be used to handle a range of private and confidential information, including e-mail and banking, so why can't the electoral process also be included in this? Bercow says that allowing citizens to vote via their mobile devices is a natural step.

However, this isn't to say that the shift should be taken lightly. Security measures must be in place to maintain and protect the “integrity of the ballot box.” The voting process for the citizen should also be painless and easy, as to encourage greater voter turnout. The recent European Union elections only saw a 33.8 percent turnout. That is far too low to be a truly representative democracy.

To Bercow, a 21st century democracy in action should be epitomized by a good citizen who must pick up a postcard weeks in advance before “dragging themselves down to an empty community hall or primary school on a wet Thursday to put a cross on a tiny piece of paper.” In line with modern technology and contemporary society, that ballot can be cast and counted in an automated fashion and possibly even remotely. This would also allow for greater access, particularly for voters who may have difficulties getting to the appropriate polling place in a timely and convenient way.

Voters want their voices to be heard, which is also why Bercow is pushing toward “crowdsourcing” ideas and public opinion too. These so-called digital consultations would not be binding, but they would help to advise the Speaker's Commission on Digital Democracy on how best to implement the new technology. “Perhaps the time has come,” said Bercow, “for the House of Commons to allow greater choice, more flexibility and public participation.”

E-voting technology has already been implemented in some fashion in the Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly and the Northern Ireland Assembly. An expansion of this into other British elections and votes only makes sense.

It is completely open to debate whether Britain should move forward with full Internet voting by way of web-connected devices like smartphones and computers or if they should start with electronic voting terminals at set polling places. However, the democratic process in the UK is due for an update one way or another.

The next United Kingdom general election is scheduled for May 7, 2015. This will elect the 56th Parliament of the United Kingdom.