Just when you thought it was safe!

e-voting in Ireland put on ice, the US finally getting to grips with voting kiosks and no e-voting in this year’s elections here in the UK. One might have been lulled into a false sense of security…

Fortunately the Sunday Times slaps us out of our stupor to reveal that the government is thinking of spending £150 million to expand e-voting with a launch target of 2007. Just to rub salt in the wounds the article focusses on how text message e-voting will boost engagement amongst young people while all forms of e-voting will help battle declining turnout.

How many times do we have to show quite clearly that e-voting DOES NOT boost turnout? At least this time the government are going against the recommendations of the Electoral Commission. Time and time again ministers and civil servants accept that they shouldn’t link e-voting with turnout before turning around and just doing that.

Other nuggets of joy:
* The article mentions voting by email, I hope, no I pray, that this is journalistic enthusiasm running amok and not something the source actually stated.

  • Again going completely against the Electoral Commission’s findings the government will propose increasing the deposit for parliamentary candidates (currently £500) to try and prevent extremist candidates. How this can possibly be spun as being democratic I don’t know. As the Commission rightly argues, cutting the deposit will increase the choice available to voters. Though only a decent voting system (Single Transferrable Vote) will make that choice meaningful. You can’t beat extremist candidates by pretending they’re not there or excluding them – open dialogue which removes ignorance and misunderstanding is the only way. Seems to me that an election campaign is an ideal forum for doing that.

  • A proportion of polling booths will be closed, probably to ‘encourage’ use of the e-voting channels and to save money to spend on all those technological goodies. The remaining booths may contain voting kiosks rather than pencil and paper and postal voting could remain an option. Sounds like a nightmare to manage.

The Sunday Times article. Of course this is based on a leak but most agree that the Times family is pretty cosy with Number 10 so I wouldn’t be surprised if this isn’t the first leak in a softening up exercise.