The E-voting Election Debate
6 May 2015 by Marketing Team
On the 7th May 2015, people around the UK will begin casting their votes for the general election via the traditional method of ballots marked with a pen or pencil. But why, during the age of technology and the “Internet of things” is this still the case? Why do we not open a web page or application and cast our vote over the internet?
After looking into the topic, the marketing team at FJG thought it slightly peculiar that a hugely important event such as the general election does not utilise the internet for voting. Something which would surely smooth out the entire process and potentially broaden the appeal of voting for a younger demographic. As with all debates there are two sides to the argument so we set out to take an in-depth look at the subject.
So what is e-voting? Well e-voting is the use of electronic devices in order to cast your vote. For example, the use of an electronic device from within a polling station or using a secure ID on a smartphone or tablet is classed as e-voting.
Benefits of e-voting:
Easier to cast your vote on election day
Cost effective – expenses of printing, mailing and tabulating paper ballots gradually lessen
Saved ballot templates
Ballot scrubbing – removes potential for errors which can occur on paper ballots
Comprehensive data reports
The UK and e-voting
The UK does not currently use e-voting. If you want to vote, you have to go to your local polling station and use the traditional method of marking your ballot paper selection with a pen. You can of course also fill in a postal ballot paper. However, e-voting is predicted to be trialled in the UK 2020 elections.
But 2020 is still five years away and the big question is why don’t we have it already? We live in a digital age where checking social media is a daily act for billions of people; in fact a recent survey has shown that Facebook has more impact than national newspapers in influencing young voters. With 89% of all online adults between the ages of 18-29 active on social media, would the logical next step not be to usher them to a vote by the click of a button?
A recent poll by YouGov, commissioned by Tecmark, asked 1,566 people whether they believed enabling digital voting would drastically increase voter turnout. A staggering 63 percent agreed this would be the case. We carried out our own workplace survey at FJG and found the number to be even higher – A massive 96%!
E-voting is without a doubt not something that will appeal to everyone. For example, over 60s were most opposed to an electronic voting system. However, despite that, over 85% of our respondents said they would vote online if they had the option, rather than go to a polling station.
Although e-voting would not appeal to everyone, it is clear that it would appeal to the vast majority of young people and that’s vitally important. Why? Because it’s that demographic where you will see the biggest numbers of non-voters, surely a statistic that’s worth trying to fix.
The success story
Estonia is a prime example of implementing e-voting successfully as they use it as a supplement to current election voting methods, not as a replacement.
They are leading the way in e-voting technology with the use of a national database, in which their citizens and its voters can cast their ballots from any computer in any location, using their ID card installed with a computer readable microchip.
During the 2011 Parliamentary elections, they received 140,846 e-votes; a figure which equates to 24.3% of all the people who voted. This is potentially 140,846 people who may not previously have voted if they were required to attend a polling station.
Imagine we could vote via our smartphones, something which is entirely possibly and has already been discussed. You log in your phone using a secure ID and ID card, then cast your vote, easy. But what happens if someone decides they can make a bit of cash out of selling their vote and allowing someone access once they have logged on?
Furthermore, what happens when a vote is cast using a corrupt device? A device which potentially exposes the voting process and voter details to a world of sophisticated, cyber-crime.
Being able to guarantee that the voter is legitimate is obviously one of the biggest question marks about e-voting. In our survey it was the one area where people flagged up concerns, with 37% of respondents worried about the security of e-voting.
Behind the Curve?
Until there is a guarantee of no issues on the security front the voting process will undoubtedly remain a polling station only event. But that is what trials are for – the problem is that with trials only proposed in 2020, that means it will be at least another ten years until anything can be properly introduced.
The bigger problem that brings is that the horse may have bolted. We would then be 14 years behind a country such as Estonia and the youth of 2025 may see political elections as something out of touch and not worth bothering about.
In the age of ‘the internet of things’ more and more devices are becoming connected, whether it’s your smartphone, your home lighting, your camera or even your new Apple watch. In that age it seems odd that one of the most important decisions for the UK is one thing that is still strictly offline.
You can put it down to security worries, you can put it down to short-sightedness and a lack of planning and trials or you can put it down to an important decision being kept deliberately traditional in its methods. Whatever the reasoning, it remains a strange paradox of the modern election that it relies on such an old fashioned method from the past to decide the future of the country.