Monday, February 9, 2015

The ongoing push for e-voting in the UK by 2020

The United Kingdom has a long and storied history that is steeped in tradition, but hanging on to the past for tradition and nostalgia's sake alone could potentially be quite harmful for maintaining a modern democracy in the generations to follow. The case has been made again and again that e-voting, Internet voting or some combination thereof should be introduced in the United Kingdom for its elections moving forward. 

This isn't only coming from analysts, pundits and journalists either. A recent report by the House of Commons on the state of UK voter engagement has made the recommendation that pilot projects for electronic voting and online voting should be launched in parliament and that the option for Britons to vote online should be widely available by 2020. That gives legislators and government officials five years to put the system in place and have it ready for the mass public. 

As has been cited before, Internet voting could provide several benefits, one of the most notable of which is to encourage more engagement by young people in politics. Nearly everyone is already on the Internet on a daily or a near-daily basis, but they may not necessarily be as motivated to vote. By offering an online option, they may be more inclined and this will help to improve overall voter turnout while still offering in-person options on Election Day using paper ballots or, better still, direct-recording electronic voting machines (DRE). 

E-voting and i-voting could encourage higher voter turnout particularly among youth voters, many of whom are increasingly disinterested and discouraged by the political world. The simple act of digitizing elections and allow for online voting could make politics relevant for this important demographic once again. Columnist Richard Wood of Here Is The City Politics also cites the cost savings in the reduction of printing paper ballots, as well as well as the reduction of the impact on the environment as a result. 

There are challenges to overcome, to be sure, including maintaining the security and integrity of the vote, but the benefits are numerous as well. Edie Lush of British publication The Week is also a supporter of e-voting and i-voting in the UK. In particular, she outlines how an electronic-based voting system—whether that involves online voting, electronic voting machines, or electronic ballot counting machines—could expedite the election process significantly. 

She uses the recent election in the Philippines as a prime example of this. It once took 40 days before the election results could be reported, but after e-voting was implemented, the full tabulation was completed in a mere 48 hours. She asks why the UK cannot be “as smart as the Philippines” in this regard. Like many others, Lush also cites the glowing example of Estonia with its innovative and trend-setting system of electronic voter verification and online voting. 

It was once said that the sun never sets on the British Empire. The United Kingdom is a great world leader, but if it does not modernize its elections with electronic and online technologies, it could become a relic of the past rather than a glowing prospect of the future.