The UK back on the road towards eVoting

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UK eVoting

Britons were among the first nations to globally experiment with eVoting.  Their first eVoting pilots go back to 2002 for local authority elections with further pilots taking place a year. Unfortunately these didn’t really work out as expected, resulting in well established skepticism on the adoption of eVoting in the UK ever since. They went too far too early in the game if you ask me. The technology available at that time was at a very immature stage and the volume of the 2003 UK pilots was too much to handle. eVoting pilots were not abandoned completely, yet nothing has really happened in the UK with regard to eVoting in the last five years.

Nevertheless, the main reasons which drove Britons to experiment with eVoting are still valid. Great concern is expressed regarding the legitimacy of government when the participation rate of registered voters on election days drops dramatically, which in many cases has dropped far below 50% of the electorate. Equally, Britons are highly sensitive when it comes to accessibility issues concerning disabled members of the electorate who could be benefited by the introduction of eVoting in any of its forms. At the same time, the British society has completely embraced the internet in all other aspect of its function, whit many of its citizens geographically dispersed all around the globe following their economic activities.

It is therefore evident that British politics would become stronger if only they could find a way to make good use of innovative eDemocracy technology. To that effect, the Westminster Parliament has appointed the Speaker’s Commission on Digital Democracy to deploy a strategy towards greater citizen engagement which includes the re-introduction of eVoting sometime in the next five years, but surely before 2020.

In the meantime an on-going public discussion is concerned with the main issues. The question whether eVoting is totally secure is answered by the efficiency of current eVoting technology along with the security measures that surround any other electoral procedure. The issue of building trust in the process via universal verifiability is already tackled by the more advanced eVoting nations such as Switzerland. That leaves us with the issue of cost, as this is an era of austerity and making use of existing infrastructure to provide a way around it.

One can claim that British citizens are much closer to eVoting than the established British political institutions. The UK is leading the eEconomy in Europe and its citizenry is part of that economy. Their public administration is already making excellent use of available eGovernment technology. Effectively, Britons are an internet ready electorate. If there is a pragmatic issue to consider, that has to do with the scalability of any eVoting solution adopted. The British electorate has a volume much greater than the electorate of Estonia or a Swiss canton. All in all, the British are not there yet when it comes to the adoption of eVoting but they are much closer than they think they are.