Response 773075227

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1. What is your name?

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Susan Hedley

2. What is your email address?


Online voting (eg, on computers and mobile devices)

6. What are the potential benefits and drawbacks of online voting (eg, voting via the internet using a computer or mobile device)?

It would be easier for those who are not very mobile, and others for whom other means of communication are more difficult. It SHOULD be quicker, easier, and possibly cheaper to count, BUT how would we check that this is accurate and not tampered with, and who would we rely on to do it? The present system works beautifully for this, and the count is the part of the process which is most likely to engage people because it involves the most drama and emotion in flesh and blood. An online vote and count would be just another bureaucratic exercise which would not reflect the value of our democracy. Online voting would not be accessible to everyone: - those who don't have a fast enough connection - those who can't use a computer - those who don't want to use a computer - our voting rights should be inalienable, and not lost due to technological trends. It would be possible to vote online without doing any research at all about candidates and issues, and people could be swayed by all sorts of instantaneous and unpredictable online trends, even in the very last minute of voting. This could make our democracy vulnerable to tampering by malicious individuals, or nations, businesses, or organisations who might see a particular result being to their advantage, even an indecisive result which might throw our government into chaos. We have seen in recent years that financial institutions and their employees, police forces, and some other nations cannot always be trusted, and no doubt there are many more discoveries still to be made Online voting would be an extra vulnerability for our democracy. If voters have to turn up at the polling station, this is less likely to happen.

7. What impact, if any, would online voting have on voter turnout?

It would no doubt increase greatly, BUT if people don't value democracy enough to go to a polling station, should we make it easier for them to vote? Should we not leave voting to those who really do value our democracy, and perhaps even take a little trouble to inform themselves about the issues and choices? WHAT WE REALLY NEED TO INCREASE VOTER TURNOUT are "abstain" and "no confidence" options on all ballot papers. At present, the only serious option to express these points of view is to return a blank ballot paper, and these are rarely reported in the media as part of the count unless they are included with the scurrilous returns, so it really does take dedication to democracy to go to the polling station in order to return a blank ballot paper. If these options were available, maybe there would be much less reason for MPs to attribute the low turnout of voters to "apathy". At the next election it looks as though UKIP might be the nearest that voters can get to a "no confidence" option. If our politicians spent more time on truly representing their constituents and debating and addressing the facts and details of the subjects which concern them, rather than playing with the words and procedures which they think will most advance their particular party, voters would probably be much more willing to spend some of their valuable time and effort on supporting them, and to listen to what MPs have to say about the concerns and experiences which they have developed in parliament. (Even in the recent Scottish refendum debate, many voters seemed to think that the politicians had failed to give them enough information to make an informed decision, and had avoided discussion of the issues which really concerned people, leaving the voters to learn and have the real debate amongst themselves rather than with those who sought to represent them.) If our democracy is going to to continue to be run by people who have the knowledge and experience of long years of dedicated service, they need to persuade people that they are operating as the voters expect them to rather than operating and voting along party lines. If they do not, I think that there is a danger that future administrations will be lead a dance by representatives voted in by people who barely know their name, let alone the responsibilities which they will be required to bear. Surely it is logical that there would be pros and cons for all ideals when applied to the real world, and that these should be fully debated and addressed in a framework which will achieve the most appropriate balance in the name of all voters. Otherwise, what is the point of our democracy which people from so many generations have struggled and died for?

8. Would online voting increase the ‘digital divide’ or increase accessibility in elections?

YES, IT ABSOLUTELY WOULD INCREASE THE DIGITAL DIVIDE, which is literally growing by the minute. Everyone who does not not or cannot keep their equipment up to the cutting edge of the latest technology is more and more excluded from democracy, whether it be by the size and complexity of content or design of policy and consultation documents which their equipment is unfit to accomodate, or because their equipment has a fault which they or their providers are more or less capable or willing to fix, or because they are reliant on using the computer in their local library, for which accessibility is constrained by the compatibility of transport times, library opening hours, and high user demand for job searching etc, with personal work and family commitments, and the reliabiltiy of the library computers e.g. recent problems with the Northumberland library computers, which took months to solve, despite the extreme dedication and efforts of the library and IT staff. Once someone has fallen behind in their representation, they will have lost the voice which would enable them to have an input to get this resolved. It would be like someone in prison who has lost the right to vote and so cannot have a voice on whatever situation contributed to their being in prison.

Electronic voting at the ballot box (eg, using a voting machine at a polling station)

10. What are the advantages and disadvantages to using electronic voting machines in polling stations instead of paper ballots?

Can't see any advantages to using them in polling stations -the system works perfectly well as it is, unless you had a help page for people who don't understand the system or the ballot paper and can't ask anyone. There would be lots of disadvantages - technical failures, overloading of the system, vulnerability to power cuts caused be accidents or even deliberately, people needing lots of help to use them, particularly at busy times, and possible resulting loss of the secrecy of the ballot.

11. Would electronic voting at the ballot box be a useful step towards online voting?

Yes, so long as you kept the conventional paper ballot as well. That way, if people were given the choice at the polling station, you could easily establish how many existing voters actually want online voting, as well as identifying and solving many of the potential problems before advancing too far too fast.

Best practice and troubleshooting

13. What safeguards would be needed to reassure the public that their digital vote was secure?

Some members of the public will never be reassured that the internet is secure. The UK government has even more reassuring to do because of the number of large scale IT disasters which it has already presided over. We still don't know for certain what the consequences of these will be, e.g. the loss of the people's child benefit information - as yet we don't know where it has gone or who might get access to it and how they might use it in the future. Government staff don't seem to be able to deal with large scale IT projects themselves, and don't seem to be able to make contracts with commercial providers which have enough safeguards for the public whether for finance or personal security and privacy. We can normally trust in people's integrity, but it is impossible that there will never be a bad apple or a flawed design, e.g. the recent flaw discovered after it had been in the internet for years which necessitated people having to change all of their passwords. One might have expected the banks to treasure their reputation for commercial reasons, but it didn't stop both institutional and individual wrongdoing. Government officials and their contractors don't seem to be at risk of having much to lose when they are found to have done wrong, except in very extreme circumstances, so there would be even less incentive for them than for the bankers to ensure that the system was secure. They might even be bribed by big businesses and countries because the potential gains could be on a world scale, and there would probably be very little chance of them being discovered, because there probably wouldn't be the resources to hire the amount of skill which would be needed to keep things secure and discover any breaches in security.