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Wednesday, September 07, 2005

No more experiments?

Plans by the Government to try and revive democracy by replacing ballot boxes with online e-elections have been abandoned. The change of heart came after trials of e-voting in local council elections showed systems were expensive, unreliable and open to abuse.

Is this a u-turn forced on the government by the abuse their so-called reforms have attracted? Let us hope so. In the meantime if they really want to increase turnouts and encourage better engagement with the electorate then they might want to consider introducing the single transferable vote method of proportional representation for all Elections.
Absolutely - though until we all have reliable I/D cards all methods of voting will remain scarily open to impersonation and other abuse. In some ways, in principle once the technology can be made to work reliably and is wholly accessible to the entire population, then e-voting might be more secure (if the high st banks could be persuaded it was worth going along with then i'd have no problem in principle voting via my ATM).

At present however the priority surely has to be to come up with a robust 21st Century way for performing voter registration. The whereever you happen to be kipping on October 15th thing both enables bogus registrations and disenfrachises large numbers on peripatetic people who move around a lot!
There's no point even considering different ways of voting until you have a reliable & comprehensive register!
Sorry, my 'absolutely' comment was in relation to the first para of Peter's post. I don't accept for a moment that replacing a simple system for elections that virtually everyone understands with an enormously complex one that virtually on-one understands would boost turnout.

I recollect my A-Level politics teacher in Gorseinon tech trying to0 explain STV to us. Getting nowhere she resorted to holding a mock, hypothetical election - which resulted in 5 candidates reaching the quota for a notional 4 member seat! What made matters worse was that there were only 9 of us in the class! P
Whoops ... must have hit 'Enter' by accident there!

Poor Marlene did eventually (the following lesson) work it out correctly & I did make enough sense out of it to point out various errors to Students' Union RO's in the years to come - usually before they had nailed their trousers to the mast.

Anyone who believes that STV will boost either turnout or peoples confidence in their politicians only needs to look at Ireland for a refutation!
Just on the turnout issue it is worth noting that in Northern Ireland both the 2001 and 1997 local elections were held on the same day as the General Election and people were asked to complete two ballot papers, one with a cross and one by numbering candidates in order of preference. There was little difference in turnout – the turnout was 68.2% for Parliament compared to 66% for the Town Hall. In England on 7 June 2001 local elections were also held on the same day as the General Election. In this instance the turnout for the National election was 59.4% compared to 62.1% for the local vote.
Yes - but NI turnouts have always been high - particularly impressive evidence of the dedication of NI voter is the number of dead people who seem to make it to the polling stations !!!
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