back to article E-voting and the UK election: Pick a lizard, any lizard

On Thursday May 7, the UK goes to the polls for a General Election. For those from elsewhere, we use the First Past the Post voting system, with each MP representing a specific geographical constituency. So, a majority of one is enough to win a seat, and the party leader who can command a majority of votes in the House of …

  1. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

    Please, no e-voting!

    a) it cannot be trusted - hacking or deliberate manipulation are far too easy. Physical ballot papers, where the issue of each ballot is recorded, and the ballot box is escorted by the police from the polling station to the count, and independent observers can see the votes being tallied, is much much harder to fiddle.

    b) if someone can't be bothered to devote 15 mins to visit the polling station (or even 2 mins to fill in a postal ballot) should they really be entitled to have any say in the government of the country? Rights and rewsponsibilities are balanced by duties.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Please, no e-voting!

      "Physical ballot papers ... is much much harder to fiddle."

      Hmm the recent issue in Tower Hamlets would suggest otherwise, That also took a dedicated campaign a year to raise a civil case, which may have bankrupted them, to get the result looked in to and the result overturned

      1. FlatSpot
        FAIL

        Re: Please, no e-voting!

        Not correct at all, having the physical ballot papers enabled hand writing analysis to determine that they were filled in with a high degree of certainty by the same hand.

        1. Cynic_999 Silver badge

          Re: Please, no e-voting!

          "

          Not correct at all, having the physical ballot papers enabled hand writing analysis to determine that they were filled in with a high degree of certainty by the same hand.

          "

          And online voting would enable it to be even more easily *and automatically* determined if a lot of votes were cast from the same IP address with 100% certainty. Which would make the detection of such fraud possible on the fly. Anyone who makes lots of fraudulent online votes in other people's names would have the problem of needing to appear to vote from many different IP addresses.

          1. Mephistro Silver badge

            Re: Please, no e-voting! (@ Cynic_999)

            "And online voting would enable it to be even more easily *and automatically* determined if a lot of votes were cast from the same IP address with 100% certainty."

            Yep, except for public libraries, student residences, homes for the elderly, hospitals, shared networks, mobile data networks and the whatnot.

            The easiest way to perpetrate this would be, IMO, using the victim's own mobile phones. If a PC is mandatory for voting, then you can take the victims to some workshop or pub with the baddies and a laptop with a 3g data connection. Depending on whether the network sends your true IP to the rest of the world or not, you may need to reset each connection after a few votes each time so as to change the IP or use an app to change your mac and/or reconnect.

            The baddies keep the voters with them until 22:00, probably inviting them to some drinks and food to sweeten the wait. Even a stripper or two. Profit!

            This method doesn't seem much more difficult or risky than the one in the Hamlet Towers voting fraud.(i.e. sending menacing mobs to the polling stations).

            And a safer variant of this method could be used for buying votes. "Here's three hundred quid in exchange for your vote. You are also invited to a party with free booze, food and strippers!" It probably would be also cheaper in the end, as you don't need so much 'security staff".

            But this discussion is quite futile. The worst part of e-voting is what could be done behind the scenes with the votes, without anyone being the wiser.

            1. Cynic_999 Silver badge

              Re: Please, no e-voting! (@ Cynic_999)

              "

              But this discussion is quite futile. The worst part of e-voting is what could be done behind the scenes with the votes, without anyone being the wiser.

              "

              Far less than what could be done behind the scenes with a ballot box full of paper votes.

              1. Richard 12 Silver badge

                Re: Please, no e-voting! (@ Cynic_999)

                No. It is much easier to lose or change the contents of an electronic ballot box than the contents of a physical one.

                While it is relatively easy to 'lose' a physical ballot box, it leaves a physical trail that must also be hidden - 3rd party observers saw it, and every individual ballot paper has to be accounted for.

                An electronic 'ballot box' has a no physical trail, only a small amount of data describes its existence - all one would need is the signature, and poof, the entire box is gone or rewritten for the Lizard Party.

                The 3rd party observers would have no way of seeing this, and no evidence would exist outside the system itself to indicate that a large-scale fraud had occurred.

              2. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Please, no e-voting! (@ Cynic_999)

                "Far less than what could be done behind the scenes with a ballot box full of paper votes."

                One of the popular attack methods with e-voting is to preset the vote count with a negative number for the candidate you want to lose, and then let the real voters in. You can achieve the same effect with paper but the electronic one is less obvious. Whether that's a good thing or not depends....

      2. Mage Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: Please, no e-voting!

        With eVoting there might have been no trace or evidence of fiddling. With paper the evidence existed!

        1. viscount

          Re: Please, no e-voting!

          Totally agree: the issues in Tower Hamlets were real but they were not caused by in-person voting; in fact it helped to prove there was a problem. Think how much easier it would be to cover-up undue influence if the person you are influencing is clicking a box on a screen in their own home somewhere.

          1. Nigel Whitfield.

            Re: Please, no e-voting!

            That, in theory, is one of the reasons why in Estonia you can vote multiple times (and even replace your vote at the polling booth).

            You might have someone standing over you, forcing you to vote one way, but as long as you can get back to the computer, or to the polling booth, later on, you can make your real choice known.

            However, it's still imperfect - someone could easily force everyone to e-vote right at the end of the allowable period, and make sure they don't get to the polling station on the day.

            1. Gordon 10 Silver badge

              Re: Please, no e-voting!

              But having to do everything last minute scales the manpower requirements beyond the reach of everyone but the most scary and deep-pocketed candidate.

            2. Cynic_999 Silver badge

              Re: Please, no e-voting!

              "

              However, it's still imperfect - someone could easily force everyone to e-vote right at the end of the allowable period, and make sure they don't get to the polling station on the day.

              "

              Physically coerced votes are really not a serious enough problem to worry about in the UK. Sure, it may happen in a few isolated cases, but it would not really be possible for a single person to coerce enough voters to influence the outcome of the election. It becomes a problem in other countries where voters can be given a credible threat that they will be killed if they do not vote in a certain way - but that applies even more to voting in a polling station than it does voting via computer.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Please, no e-voting!

            "Think how much easier it would be to cover-up undue influence if the person you are influencing is clicking a box on a screen in their own home somewhere."

            Easier than making them tick a certain box on a postal ballot when they only have once chance to vote, rather than multiple goes to correct it?

        2. Banksy

          Re: Please, no e-voting!

          Not heard of audit trails or encryption then?

    2. Cynic_999 Silver badge

      Re: Please, no e-voting!

      I don't see why a system for e-voting cannot be at least as secure as an online banking system - in fact it only has to perform one task and a single transaction per customer, and so could easily be designed to be far more secure. While online banking fraud does happen, it is an insignificant fraction of bank transactions that are fraudulent (otherwise banks could not afford to have it), and a similar percentage of fraudulent votes is hardly likely to affect the outcome of an election. An electronic "paper trail" could be made far more watertight than ballot papers provide, and what's more it could trivially be arranged that voters could check what vote was recorded for them at any time after they have voted (while at the same time not allowing anyone else, including the authorities to see how another person has voted), or even for a running tally of votes to be shown to the public as votes are received (which may prompt people to vote who otherwise would not have bothered).

      1. tony2heads

        @Cynic_999

        If you want it secure go for two-factor authentication

        If you want people to get involved add an option 'none of the above'

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          none of the above

          Is that an option where voting is mandatory? - like Australia (I believe)

          Or "spoil vote" ...

          Otherwise I'd feel cheated.

        2. Omgwtfbbqtime Silver badge

          Re: 'none of the above'

          Vote for RON!

          Re

          Open

          Nominations.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Please, no e-voting!

      or even 2 mins to fill in a postal ballot

      Postal votes are the easiest way to fiddle the results and should be banned with a few very well defined exceptions - British forces stationed overseas and those people that are in hospital/ care homes come to mind as the main exceptions.

    4. phuzz Silver badge

      Re: Please, no e-voting!

      re: b) It might only be a 15 minute walk to a polling station in most towns, but in the countryside it can easily be three to four times that, and/or require a car.

      Not to mention that a fifteen minute walk for you or I can be much more difficult for some people.

      1. Nigel Whitfield.

        Re: Please, no e-voting!

        @phuzz

        That's very true - and it's potentially a big problem. It's one that eVoting could solve, if it was universal (eg a free terminal, and decent rural connectivity), but if that's not solved first, it potentially makes matters worse, not better, by creating a large differential skew in turnout between areas.

        There are still plenty of locations with rubbish broadband, mobile not-spots, and the like, and rural poverty. A situation where some people can vote easily online while others are in the situation you describe, of needing transport and a long trip exacerbates unfairness.

        This is very much one of those areas where - even if you could solve the core technology problems of e-voting - you still have to address other areas that touch on it, like universal broadband provision, and identity card, if it's to be a fair system

    5. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Please, no e-voting!

      "if someone can't be bothered"

      Choosing not to vote is something one is allowed to do in a free country. It may be that they just can't be bothered or it may be that they don't see a viable selection of candidates.

      Probably the most exasperating exhortations I hear with regard to voting is women shrilling about suffragettes and how it's every womens duty to vote. Not, it isn't. They fought for the right to vote, not make it compulsory. Choice is choice and everyone now has a right to choose. If it's "none of the above" then that's fine by me, whatever the individuals method of demonstrating that choice is.

  2. Badvok
    Meh

    National Identity Card

    While I personally can't see why a National ID Card is such a problem, since most of us carry one in the form of a driving license anyway, it has been shown that Joe Public really dislikes the idea and therefore e-voting will never happen.

    1. James 51 Silver badge

      Re: National Identity Card

      It's the privacy busting databases that go with them that put a lot of people off.

      1. John Lilburne

        Re: National Identity Card

        No it was more a question of good old bloody mindedness. The government wants it, therefore we don't. The privacy busting is already there, but we don't seem to mind that.

        1. James 51 Silver badge

          Re: National Identity Card

          In theory the privacy busting is there when you join the existing databases up or ignore safeguards so you don't technically need a new database but it would have helped.

        2. Cynic_999 Silver badge

          Re: National Identity Card

          "

          No it was more a question of good old bloody mindedness. The government wants it, therefore we don't. The privacy busting is already there, but we don't seem to mind that.

          "

          Not at all (in my case at least). If everyone has to have an ID card by law, you can bet your socks that very soon it will be necessary to use that card for all sorts of services and situations. Each time it is demanded to be shown it will be scanned and the transaction or situation recorded in a single database. This will allow the government to track very small details of your life and run algorithms to determine whether you have a "suspicious lifestyle" or to flag you as a suspect in whatever new laws they may dream up in future. Plus probably getting a nice kickback by selling such information for marketing purposes.

    2. Dr. Mouse Silver badge

      Re: National Identity Card

      While I personally can't see why a National ID Card is such a problem, since most of us carry one in the form of a driving license anyway

      IIRC the main objections to it were

      a) The incredible amount of data stored in the database

      b) The fact that everyone would be required to have one, and pay for it

      c) It wasn't that useful for most people

      Point a could be solved by only storing the minimal amount of data in the central database to verify identity. Point b could be solved by not making it mandatory, although this would reduce it's effectiveness to the govt, and/or by issuing them for free, paid by general taxation.

      Point c is the interesting one to me. If the ID card could be used for more things, it would be more useful. It would be the ideal place to implement electronic cash. It could be used with a card reader for logins/form filling etc. It could be used to store membership info to clubs, bank card details so you only need one card, all sorts of things. Having one would then simplify peoples lives, and it would be more popular.

      In short, I could see government issued ID cards being of great benefit, but not in the form they were presented.

      1. Nigel Whitfield.

        Re: National Identity Card

        Point C is where the Estonia system probably helps quite a lot. You can use the card to sign an electronic document in a legally binding way, for example. That's in itself is something many people might find very useful.

        A unique card could also be used to allow access to a third party PKI infrastructure, allowing people to encrypt communications in a way that's verifiable, and pretty secure, too.

        On point b, there's also a difference between mandatory issuing and mandatory carrying. The former is ok, I think - though you probably shouldn't have to pay for it - but I'm very strongly against mandatory carrying. That, to many people, would be a big change for the UK. Despite claims that some of the claimed reasons for introducing a card ("terrorism!") will be useless without mandatory carrying, they'll not be much better with.

        And, mandatory carry works only when there's a penalty for not doing so. Just as there are people who have been stopped dozens of times for no reason, there will be some who'll still be stopped, until the day they've forgotten their ID card, and can finally be nicked for something.

        1. Throatwobbler Mangrove

          Re: National Identity Card

          "You can use the card to sign an electronic document in a legally binding way, for example. That's in itself is something many people might find very useful."

          Not really in Britain, it's not. Documents "signed" by email or using e-signatures are already legally binding (in almost all cases - there are certainly some exceptions).

          I don't know anything about Estonian law but I assume (!) it's a civil law country in which notaries public are used to record/formalise contracts, leases etc fairly regularly. If the electronic ID card replaces that need and they already have a mandatory ID card system - well, great, I suppose.

          But in the UK, ID cards and electronic voting are solutions looking for a problem. We got on fine without them. Paper voting is cheap, easy and works pretty well. It's no surprise that the biggest proponents are like Malloch-Brown, who sells the machines!

          1. Nigel Whitfield.

            Re: National Identity Card

            Well, yes, they are legal in the UK. It's just that lacking any centralised system, we don't have any common way of doing these things. When I leased a computer some years ago, I had documents sent to me using a system called "EchoSign", which I'd never come across before. Other firms use different solutions. By far the most common way of consenting to the loan of a piece of review kit is still for the PR people to email me a document with a request that I sign it and fax it back!

            So, while there may be ways of e-signing that are recognised in the UK, they're all relatively rare, as far as end users are concerned. By having a common system, with software freely available for most computers, based on a card that everyone has, you can encourage take-up of such things rather better than we have done here, I'd venture.

    3. Captain Mainwaring

      Re: National Identity Card

      I agree with the idea that people should be required to produce official photo ID to vote in an election. But spend billions on rolling out an ID card scheme, why? With about 85% of the population already having either a passport, driving licence or both, I would have thought there is already enough official ID about to do the job.

      1. Nigel Whitfield.

        Re: National Identity Card

        That still leaves 15% without.

        One of my friends, for instance, a working class lad from Hackney, couldn't drive, nor had he ever been abroad. Consequently, he had no passport, nor need for one, and no need for a driving licence.

        A passport now is £72.50 for your first one. A provisional driving licence is £34, assuming you can apply online. You'll need a passport or a birth certificate. If you don't have one of the latter, then that's an additional £9.25. And it's £43 to get a driving licence by post.

        You'll also need the photos, of course, which is likely to set you back another fiver from a photo booth machine.

        Even assuming someone does have a birth certificate they can find, you're looking at almost £40 to get the ID that they'll only need to vote. In the worst case, if they don't have a computer to use, and need to get a copy certificate you're looking at a little under £57.

        It's easy to look at things like this and think "well, that's not so much," or "I'd spend more than that on a decent dinner" but there really are people who don't drive, and don't have passports and - above all - don't have £40 to spare. But they're still entitled to vote, because we have a universal franchise.

        If you're going to require ID to take part in that, it absolutely must be provided free of charge, in my view.

        You could do that - as I believe some US states do - by having a specific ID document for people who fall into that 15% who have neither driving licence nor passport. However, while that may be acceptable for voting, there are issues around the more general use of such documents. Essentially, if there's a "poor person's" ID, and other sorts of ID, and you start to allow them to be used in other situations (eg bars checking credentials, say) then you potentially open the way to discrimination.

    4. Cynic_999 Silver badge

      Re: National Identity Card

      "

      While I personally can't see why a National ID Card is such a problem, since most of us carry one in the form of a driving license anyway, it has been shown that Joe Public really dislikes the idea and therefore e-voting will never happen.

      "

      There is no more (or less) need to have a National ID card to vote electronically than there is to vote by paper slip, and I do not understand why you think that there is. I could visit a polling station 5 times and cast a vote each time using a different name and address just as easily (or not) as I could do so from a computer keyboard.

      1. Nigel Whitfield.

        Re: National Identity Card

        I suppose the feeling is that to do so on a large scale would require considerable effort - polling stations have a list of voters and would notice if the same name was used, or the same person came in several times. You could impersonate someone at multiple stations, but you'd be running around a lot.

        Online, that can potentially be much easier.

        In the absence of ID cards, I suppose each polling card could have a unique code which can only be used once, to sign in to the polling website.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: National Identity Card

      More than anything it was the intent (confirmed at the time) that it would be illegal to go out without your wallet. Secondly was certain politicians insisting that despite this, no police officer would ever stoop so low as to exploit a law that allowed them to arrest a burglary victim for having their ID card stolen.

      This was, you'll remember, before they started arresting photographers for being too tall.

  3. James 51 Silver badge

    Digital voting systems can be made to work. It's all about putting enough resources in and maintaining them properly (and if you won with the old system, why would you bother?). However to raise engagement changing first past the post and broader political reforms and changes would be a better idea.

    1. Nigel Whitfield.

      The resourcing and the maintaining of a system are the aspects that would worry me most. We do tend to penny pinch a lot here. Only yesterday it was reported that the Met still has a ton of Windows XP machines ans it trying to arrange with MS to get at least another year of support, rather than actually replace them.

      Given the understanding of tech in government, I suspect voting machines would end up in the same sorry state as Virginia. Or we'd get the situation I suggested where, in order to 'save money' that could be spent on the electronic system, some polling stations would be closed.

      Or perhaps someone would come up with the bright idea of sponsoring them. After all, if roundabouts can be sponsored to raise money for local authorities, why not voting machines? Imagine having to sit through "a word from our sponsor" before you actually get to the screen where you can vote.

      1. James 51 Silver badge

        Me too. Imagine a DDOS on election day. A bigger concern might be if you were afraid your vote could be identified. Vote for the right result or some little green men might come knocking on your door.

        1. Cliff

          Minitel equivalent

          We'll all have smart meters by the 2020 elections, so piggyback that secure and uncontroversial network - leave one light on all day for Labour, electric fire all day for conservatives, solar power chargeback for Green, etc.

          Find fault with that, I challenge you ;-)

  4. Phil W

    I come in peace. Take me to your Lizard.

  5. FlatSpot

    It's not broken don't fix it

    We need proportional representation not e-voting and postal fraud.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It's not broken don't fix it

      "We need proportional representation not e-voting and postal fraud."

      Got it in one.

      Then perhaps we can move on towards picking politicians who are worthy of their voters trust, politicians who represent their electorate, etc.

      E-voting is at best a distraction from the real issues that have split politicians from people, and in many ways evoting is worse than the current paper voting system.

      Meantime, if you can't find a candidate worth voting for, why not go to the voting booth anyway and write in None Of The Above.

      Typically half the electorate (give or take) don't vote. If half these people turned up and wrote in None Of The Above, in large friendly felt-tip-pen letters, it might be hard to hide.

      Vote early, vote often.

      1. MrXavia

        Re: It's not broken don't fix it

        "if you can't find a candidate worth voting for, why not go to the voting booth anyway and write in None Of The Above."

        None Of The Above would certainly get a massive vote if we did that...

        Trying to find a party worth voting for is impossible...

        Even finding the best of a bad bunch is hard...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It's not broken don't fix it

      "We need proportional representation not e-voting and postal fraud."

      We were offered it. We said no. I suppose we could adopt the EU approach and keep voting until we get the "right" answer.

      Or the losers could accept that we had a democratic vote. Which went the other way. And decided to stay with the current system. Possibly for reasons of bloody-mindedness , possibly not.

      1. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

        Re: It's not broken don't fix it

        We were NOT offered PR, at least not in any meaningful sense of the term. Additional Vote is window dressing for keeping First-past-the-post, and electing a least worst candidate.

        Real PR is single transferable vote in multi-member constituencies, which introduces reasonable proportonality whilst retaining a link between MPs and a constituency, albeit a larger one. It's not perfect but it's much much better than what we have now.

        1. Richard 12 Silver badge

          Re: It's not broken don't fix it

          I'd love STV with something like 3-4 member constituencies.

          Then I'd be able to take my issue to whichever of the members I thought was most likely to help on that particular thing.

          The current One-Member system has the fundamental problem that if my Member is a Minister, or even worse, the Speaker, I'm stuffed.

          The Minister must back the Cabinet due to Collective Responsibility, and the Speaker isn't allowed to express their opinion.

  6. Mage Silver badge
    Big Brother

    Plenty, though, were disillusioned with politics

    This is the issue. Not the ease of voting or speed of counting.

    The eVoting is pointless and no matter how secure can be "edited" by those with the keys. Yes, paper systems can be "stuffed" and "gamed" too, but it's very much harder.

    Digital for the sake of being Digital is foolish and is simply "fashion".

    1. theOtherJT

      Re: Plenty, though, were disillusioned with politics

      Absolutely. I look at the candidates available to me in the constituency where I live and despair.

      I'm one of the lucky ones. My vote will count - sort of. This is a marginal seat and changes hands often, but only between 2 parties I don't particularly care for. I do get the opportunity to vote against someone I really don't like, but not for someone I do.

      There's a simple reason for that. The "someone I do" doesn't exist. There isn't a political party anywhere on the UK radar that I believe actually represents the interests of me and mine, and I have to believe that's going to be the same for a lot of Reg readers.

      1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

        Re: Plenty, though, were disillusioned with politics

        A friend has a good retort for the "if you didn't vote then you don't have a right to complain" type of comment: "I'd rather vote for somebody that I want in than the one that I least don't want in".

  7. Bob Wheeler
    Joke

    An old Saying

    Vote early and vote oftern.

    1. Jason Hindle

      Re: An old Saying

      It's the Illinois way.

  8. viscount
    Meh

    Turnout can be misleading

    In our first pass the post system low turnouts are expected in many cases. I will probably vote, but like many people I know exactly who will win the ballot regardless because it is a safe seat. Comparing our turnouts to PR voting systems is misleading.

    1. Nigel Whitfield.

      Re: Turnout can be misleading

      Directly comparing is awkward, yes, but you seem to be suggesting FPTP will produce lower turnouts (and we've definitely had some of those).

      Look at the graph - we're actually doing about the same as Estonia, a country with both PR and e-voting. So, while there are other countries that do better (and most of them have PR), the poster boy that everyone holds up as being the solution isn't, really, doing any better in terms of participation than we are.

  9. viscount

    Opportunity for Labour?

    The interesting thing for me about e-voting is that is likely to increase the turnout of younger voters. At the moment there is a large skew to older citizens because they tend to vote more, and I suspect e-voting would reverse that.

    There is therefore an opportunity for a party like Labour (with better polling amongst the youth) to swing more votes to themselves if they get into power and introduce e-voting. Be interesting to see if they do it.

    Conversely, The Conservatives have little motivation to introduce e-voting because it would dilute their core vote.

    1. Nigel Whitfield.

      Re: Opportunity for Labour?

      That's one way it could go, certainly, but not the only one, surely?

      For example, it might make it easier to wander round the day room of a rest home with a tablet or a PC on a trolley, getting people to wake up long enough to press the right buttons - no need to arrange for the postal votes, or transport to ferry them to the polling station.

      While the FTPA means for the moment General Elections are likely to happen in May, not all elections will. If an election were called in the winter, and it snowed, would the skew be different - towards people in cities, and away from the country? That again might favour Labour more than Conservative, but it could also favour the relatively well off, rather than the rural poor.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Opportunity for Labour?

      That's why Labour, Green and SNP ( from memory, maybe lib-dems too? ) all want to reduce the voting age to 16.

      I think you should have to be 25 to vote, although being 28 maybe I'm biassed. I didn't know my arse from my elbow at 18, I think I even have voted Lib-dem at the time.

      It also irritates me that Sky news are running a campaign to get younger people to vote. If the opportunity to vote isn't interesting enough, I say just leave them be.

      ( cue people older than me telling me I'm a young whippersnapper who is 15 years too young to vote :) )

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Opportunity for Labour?

        Many moons ago when I was a 28 year old whippersnapper I also thought giving the vote to 18 years olds was crazy but as I've got older I've come to think that the voting age should be 16. Not knowing your arse from your elbow shouldn't be a barrier to participating in our democracy.

        As people of more years we all know that sixteen year olds could make a good decision if their life depended on it but the decisions being made by the government directly affect them so it's only fair they get a say (yes I realize you could use this argument to give the vote to babies). The young, in my experience, are also more likely to think of the bigger picture and the future which this country desperately needs.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Opportunity for Labour?

          " Not knowing your arse from your elbow shouldn't be a barrier to participating in our democracy."

          True - it seems to be a job requirement for being an MP, in any case.

          On balance, am in favour of lowering voting rights to 16. And all age-related responsibilities as well, as the two have to go hand in hand, so no special treatment in tax / criminal cases etc, but also remove the lower rated minimum wage.

          1. Anonymous C0ward

            Re: Opportunity for Labour?

            And lower the age for booze and fags too?

            1. Nigel Whitfield.

              Re: Opportunity for Labour?

              When I was a confused teenager, we weren't allowed to be fags until we were 21.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Opportunity for Labour?

                "When I was a confused teenager, we weren't allowed to be fags until we were 21"

                If you had had the privilege of going to D Cameron's school, you could have been a fag at 13. And be whipped by a boy two years older.

                You need to know this to understand the Conservative Party; by the time they get to the Bullingdon they've already had the SM, the humiliation and the endless lectures on their superiority over the oiks. (From, as every Etonian knows, Greek oikia, a homestead and the family that occupies it; also economics (oikonomics), the laws for controlling oiks.) If you are a successful businessman, even as they fawn on you for donations, they're laughing at your accent behind your back.

          2. Fink-Nottle

            Re: Opportunity for Labour?

            > On balance, am in favour of lowering voting rights to 16.

            You then open up the possibility of 16 year old MPs, which is an interesting proposition.

            1. Nigel Whitfield.

              Re: Opportunity for Labour?

              It would be a possibility,but not absolutely necessary. Both Ireland and the USA for example have a lower age limit for the role of President (though Ireland may vote to lower theirs from 35 to 21 next month).

              So, it would be entirely possible to have a voting age of 16 and a higher age requirement for becoming an MP.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A better electoral system is a must, in the context of people now actually voting for smaller parties. What system I don't know.....some really pure proportional system would be my favorite, so if you get 10% of the popular vote you get 10% of the MPs. That may mean severing / lessening the 'local representative' bit of our politics, which some may be unhappy about. However, if you want to know what it's like to have an MP that doesn't actually represent you on local issues, move to my constituency. Present incumbent is a useless bastard.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      We the people recently had a vote on an alternative voting system and said "no".

      1. Nigel Whitfield.

        The system proposed wasn't proportional, though, was it? I suspect if it had been PR, many people would have chosen that.

        There's actually an interesting piece over on Vice that mentions this; had Cameron actually allowed PR as an option, it might well be doing him favours now, making a Con/UKIP/LibDem alliance more likely to be able to continue governing than under FPTP.

        1. glen waverley

          PR cf Alternative vote

          PR (proportional representation) requires multi member electorates. Alternative vote aka preferential system works for single member electorates.

      2. MonkeyCee Silver badge

        lol

        Yes, there was an option to change from a bad but understood system, for a PR system that no-one could explain in under 5 minutes. Not that it was deliberately sabotaged, or a choice between MMP, FPTP and direct PR.

        I like MMP when I was in NZ. You got a good mix of both systems, and it's easy to understand, even if you are Maori*, who get to choose if their party vote is part of the general elective or towards their reserved seats.

        Neither of the two big parties wants it. Much the same way as any referendum on Europe (or Scottish independence) will be manipulated to maintain the status quo, those who've fought their way to power aren't handing it away.

        * Not intended as an insult to them. Only took a couple of election before they realised they actually had the most power to tactical vote.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        We the people recently had a vote on an alternative voting system and said "no"

        I disagree. I think the people wanted to deliver a kick in the gonads to Mr Clegg and his chums. The liberals were so unpopular at the time, even with their own supporters, I think if they had been supporting a free beer allowance, they would have got voted down.

      4. eJ2095

        Prolly cause they took a vote

    2. P. Lee

      >All too many people feel, ultimately, that their vote doesn't matter.

      >A better electoral system is a must,

      I'd favour half & half - half pure PR, half FPTP and one vote for each.

      Keep the direct representation, but also allow the ability of smaller parties to grow.

      What astounds me is the idea many people have that giving more power to the EU will somehow result in a more responsive electoral situation locally.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

        1. JimWin

          The 2nd chamber serves a different purpose

          The HoL is there to act as a peer review of the legislatiive output from the Commons. By having experienced parlimentarians, business leaders etc. review legislation from the lower house, there's a chance to fix any bugs before publication. It's a well accepted process copied by many organisations, standards bodies etc. The moniker 'House of Lords' is a hangover from earlier times. Giving a provisional document a second review by an independent group of experienced people is an important component of due process and reduces the likelihood of bugs getting through.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: The 2nd chamber serves a different purpose

            That's what it is supposed to do, but I'm minded to comment: Lord Archer, Lord Janner, and I could think of a few more.

            I can see an argument for a system like this: for elections to the Lords, a "constituency" would consist of an organisation (or group of organisations) that had paying members and was not for profit, party political or religious. The public would choose an organisation to which they belonged and in which they wished to vote. Examples could be the RSPB, the various engineering bodies, the NHS, the Rotary. Organisations would get one representative per 100 000 members or thereabout. They could organise their election how they liked; if an organisation got notably undemocratic, it might lose all its voters (and its representation) come the next election.

            This would ensure that the House of Lords reflected the things people actually cared enough to support, and ensure that a wide range of skills was represented in the Lords. (Of course, it might mean a lot of peers for the National Trust and the RSPB, but that's got to be better than a bench packed with bishops.)

            1. Nigel Whitfield.

              Re: The 2nd chamber serves a different purpose

              I have wondered if there is also some merit to a "jury service" type of element, where 50 or 100 people are selected to serve say six months in the second chamber.

              I'm sure companies would complain, but many already have to cope with army reservists so they could cope with that. It would give ordinary people a greater stake in the system.

      2. Nigel Whitfield.

        The additional member system is what you're describing, and is how we elect people to (amongst others) the London Assembly. You get to pick a candidate for your constituency, and you get to pick a party, for the additional seats.

        I'm certainly not the only person I know who 'split votes', choosing someone that I know is a good constituency representative from one party, and selecting a different party from the list.

        The system is described at Londonist amongst other places.

        One of the oddest things about the UK as presently constituted is the number of different electoral systems we have operating side by side.

        There's FPTP for most, Supplementary Vote for the Mayor of London (and other Mayors too, I think), and Additional Member for the London Assembly, plus the Welsh Assembly and Scottish Parliament.

        Single Transferable Vote is used for for NI Assembly, Scottish & NI local elections and European elections in NI. The rest of the UK uses a Closed Party List system for the European Parliament.

        That's five different systems used by UK voters, depending on what you're voting for and where in the country you are, or six if you count Alternative Vote which is used for some internal votes in Parliament.

        If you were designing a new country from scratch, you certainly wouldn't end up with something like that.

        (Full details of all the systems are here).

    3. viscount

      While I agree with the idea that is nice to have one's vote actually count for something, the problem I have with PR is that it gives even more power to political parties. With PR you are not voting for a person, you vote for the party and then whatever process they use to come up with their party list determines who gets into Parliament. That party list may have all kinds of dubious people on it who you would never actually vote for individually.

      I think parties already have too much power in our system.

    4. This post has been deleted by its author

  11. The Mole

    Faster Counts and Costs

    How much does running a polling station actually cost?

    Looking at http://thanet.gov.uk/your-services/elections-and-voting/working-at-elections/working-at-elections/ it's a probably less than a thousand pounds covering staff, transport, pencils and hire.

    It adds up but the likelyhood of an all electronic system properly maintained and updated actually coming in cheaper seems low to me.

    As for the supposed benefit of poll results coming in quicker my general response is who cares? Even historically it hasn't been a big problem to wait until the next morning to find out who has formed the government, in the current situation even when the poll results have been done it is likely to be days (if not weeks) before we know who the government is anyway.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I vote at every opportunity I get and with the exception of this general election I have always voted for the party I wanted in power even if I knew they stood no chance. This time around though I've found myself having to vote tactically because I live in a close run area and the second place party are slightly bigger muppets than the first place party.

    If I was king the first thing I'd change is FPtP. Even under ideal conditions it's going to make half the voters feel like their vote was a waste of time and generally speaking it'll be a lot more than that - when was the last time a government polled more than 50% of the votes!

    The next problem that needs addressing is they way politicians get into power and then do things that most of the population don't want, going to war springs to mind. The people have no reasonable way to make the government respect it's wishes.

    As for e-voting, that's a tough one. I think with some investment it could in theory be made to work. Could our government, of any colour, make it work? Not in a million years.

  13. kraut

    e-voting solves the wrong problem.

    The reason people don't vote is, IMHO, because

    a) they feel none of the parties represent them (*)

    b) their votes, unless in a marginal seat, are essentially wasted anyway.

    The solution to this is to

    b) change the voting system to proportional representation

    a) which would help smaller parties that are more representative to actually get into parliament.

    (*) look at https://www.politicalcompass.org/, maybe do the test (anonymously), and see what how your results map on to the parties you could vote for. In my case, there's only one party standing that is even in the right quadrant. YMMV, but it's informative.

  14. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    Missing the big picture

    Voting isn't important. Not in the sense of it needing to be fair or democratic or fraud free.

    The real need for voting is to keep the numbers up to give the illusion that people actively support the elected dictatorship systems we have in the west. When more people don't vote than do there is a danger that people will recognise the widespread contempt for the so-called democracy we have and it may all come tumbling down.

    The resilience of western democracies comes from having those elected play second fiddle to the system itself. It doesn't matter who gets in, so long as the system survives.

    The way to topple the system is to show it the contempt it deserves. That can be done non-violently by not voting and encouraging others to do the same. That's why politicians are so desperate to get people to vote. Every vote supports the system, keeps a politician in a job. It doesn't matter of which flavour, that all balances out over the long term, and it doesn't really matter anyway beyond fooling the electorate into believing democracy somehow works. The really important thing is to keep the gravy train running and the system intact.

    If one really wants to change things; don't vote or, better still, spoil the ballot. But one needs to make sure that non-vote counts, is not discarded, discounted or ignored as if it were mere apathy or jest as it is now.

    That probably all sounds a bit Russell Brandish but it's actually more extreme than that. He appears to have given up for not being able to change things and has failed to recognise we could tear the whole thing down and start anew by making spoiled ballots a legitimate choice. Of course, those who want to perpetuate the system won't want that. That is perhaps something Brand could usefully campaign for.

    1. Captain Hogwash Silver badge
      Meh

      Re: Missing the big picture

      Having torn the system down, what would you put in its place?

      1. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge

        Re: Missing the big picture

        It's not really my decision to make, but I believe we need to get back to where 'they work for us' rather than having them elected then simply deciding for themselves and telling us what we will do. Being able to change the party in power every few years only moves us from one elected dictatorship to another doesn't fix the power issue.

        I would like a system which governs cooperatively, more representatively, and more fairly, seeks to be least harmful to everyone over being maximally favouring towards one group at the expense of others. I don't believe it's a true democracy where the majority are forced to put up with being dictated to by the minority.

        The first past the post system means 50% of those voting may lose, often more. Even those voting for the winning party probably have to accept things they do not actually want.

        1. Captain Hogwash Silver badge
          Meh

          Re: Missing the big picture

          My apologies. When you wrote of toppling the system I hadn't realised you meant tweaking the system slightly.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Missing the big picture

            "My apologies. When you wrote of toppling the system I hadn't realised you meant tweaking the system slightly."

            What do we want?

            Gradual and progressive amelioration of society.

            When do we want it?

            In a reasonable timescale based on the needs of stakeholders to adapt financially and socially to change.

            How do we expect the authorities to respond to our modest requests?

            In a friendly spirit of willing co-operation.

            ...in your dreams, sunshine.

    2. Anonymous C0ward

      Re: Missing the big picture

      Feck. I was going to spoil my ballot (autocorrect nearly said soil my ballot) but I don't want to identify with Brand, he's a twat.

  15. Steve Foster

    Turnout

    Seems like an easy way to increase turnout would be to pay everyone who votes a modest sum, say £10. In the overall scheme of government funding, and things they manage to waste billions on, it's a tiny amount to spend to get a "representative" government. If almost everybody does vote, it may turn out that FPTP is good enough.

    1. Tony W

      Re: Turnout

      Why should more voters make FPTP a better system? That would only happen if those who at present can't be bothered to vote, tend to favour one party. Should a party be in power only because many of their voters have been paid to turn up at the polling station?

      But If the current non-voters don't tend to favour a particular party, adding them in would just add more noise and make close results even more random.

      Anyway the only people who really care about low turnout are politicians, because they think it makes government look less legitimate.

      Personally I would reduce the number of voters by putting the age back to 21. Young people are just as intelligent and interested as older ones, and no doubt more so than some of the very old ones. But experience is considered necessary for all important jobs and voting is one of the most important things we do. It can decide peace or war, and nothing could be much more important than that.

      Personally I was very interested and took it seriously when I first voted. But even at the grand old age of 22, I paid far more attention to political speeches and manifestos, and less attention to party records in government and opposition, than I would do now.

    2. Richard 12 Silver badge

      Re: Turnout

      FPTP is fundamentally flawed, in that it forces a two-party system to come into being, due to the effect of the "split vote".

      https://youtu.be/s7tWHJfhiyo

  16. Tony W

    Secret ballot?

    The secret ballot, once hard fought for, seems to have been forgotten. Now that anyone can get a postal vote the door is open to paid for votes and intimidation. Internet voting would make those even easier. In my view postal voting should be abolished except for those who can show it is essential for them to be able to vote at all.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Secret ballot?

      They do write the number of your ballot slip along side of your name in the register, so it is not that secret.

      1. phil dude
        Joke

        Re: Secret ballot?

        Yes, but the gun poking through the curtain might tip-off the clerks...

        P.

      2. J.G.Harston Silver badge

        Re: Secret ballot?

        "They do write the number of your ballot slip along side of your name in the register, so it is not that secret."

        No they don't.

        They cross out your name in the publically available marked register. All you can see from ther marked register is that you have been given a ballot paper. Nothing more, and nothing less.

        You elector number is written on the counterfoil to the ballot paper. You are given the ballot paper, seperate from the counterfoil. The counterfoil and ballot paper have a serial number on them. The ballots and counterfoild are stored seperately and kept for about a year before being destroyed.

        If you have sufficient evidence to convince an electoral court that electoral irregularities may have occured (cf Tower Hemlets), that court may order that the ballots be examined to search for irregularities. If you have sufficient evidence to convince an electoral court that those electoral irregularies are of a sort when a match needs to be made between ballots and electors, then that court may order that election officials take hundreds of hours sorting through tens of thousands of ballot papers to match up the suspicious ballots.

        To all intents and purposes, the ballot is secret. Only the voter can breach that secrecy by themselves stating (or ratherm, claiming) who they voted for.

        1. SImon Hobson Silver badge

          Re: Secret ballot?

          > To all intents and purposes, the ballot is secret.

          Which is important.

          According to something I saw on the gogglebox a while ago, the reason strict rules are there regarding not marking the ballot paper other than to put your X in a box, was to make it so. Before such rules, people would be told to make a particular mark on the paper, so that the candidate (or his representative) could observe the count and confirm that everyone he was paying or "persuading" to vote for him actually had done. Hence the "secret" ballot was anything but, and vote rigging was easy - as in, "vote for me or you lose you house and job".

          So the rules were brought in, so that if anyone marked the paper in such a way, the vote would automatically be invalid.

      3. This post has been deleted by its author

  17. Christian Berger Silver badge

    Please, keep up with the state of discussion

    Since I'm tired of re-writing the same thing over and over again, I'm going to post my summary of the opinion of the constitutional court in Germany again. It represents the current state of the discussion when it comes to e-voting:

    ====================================================

    The position of the constitutional court of Germany is worthy of note

    Essentially they say that even _if_ those machines would be "secure", they still couldn't be used as it's not about them being secure, but about the layperson being able to check for election fraud by themselves.

    A simple pen an paper system may be easy to compromise, however it's trivial to check. You look into the ballot box before they seal it, it needs to be empty. You count how many people came to vote and how many ballots are in the box when they open it again. Then you make sure those ballots are properly counted and nobody adds or removes any ballots. Since the ballots will be stored in a sealed box afterwards, you can always recount them.

    Any sort of system that involves mechanics, electronics or mathematics is much harder to understand. A voting system has to even work in the "paranoid" situation where everybody is against you. You cannot ask a mathematician to proof it's correctness to you, you cannot ask a team of forensic engineers to disassemble and check your voting computer.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Please, keep up with the state of discussion

      Following the well known events of 1939-45, the UK is not bound by the constitutional court of Germany.

      1. Christian Berger Silver badge

        Re: Please, keep up with the state of discussion

        Yes, but that doesn't change the opinion. If the UK wants to be a democratic country it has to adhere to similar standards than Germany.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Please, keep up with the state of discussion

        Isn't it strange how Germany has a fair chunk of Europe by the balls today even though we beat them back then?

  18. Dr_N Silver badge

    eVoting

    Yet another example of trying to ape the USA for no good reason.

    Applying a technology/approach for non-existent problems that will translate badly once shipped over the Atlantic.

  19. Tromos

    If E-voting was workable, why use it to concentrate an entire constituency's votes down to 1 (the elected MP)? Even if your choice was elected would they vote the way you wished every time? It would be better to use a digital voting system to effectively have a national referendum on everything and lose the party politics with whip systems that are every bit as iniquitous as union block votes.

    1. Nigel Whitfield.

      That is, essentially, the premise of the "Demarchists" (Democratic Anarchists) in Alistair Reynolds' Revelation Space universe. Everyone is constantly polled, via an implant, in a sort of continuous referendum.

      The book that covers it in most detail - and probably works fairly well as a standalone, if you've not read the others - is The Prefect.

    2. Anonymous C0ward

      Because many would use it to exercise extremist (or at least nasty) views they normally keep secret?

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Just replace the whole election thing with a Facebook page. Like?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Not without a Dislike button. Actually, how about a negative system where you vote against the candidate you least want? I can see it improving the success of small parties and independents.

  21. sjiveson

    Can't be bothered

    I've always voted but, really, exactly how does that vote mean I have a say? Ignoring the fact I've never voted for a winner, how can one vote possibly reflect my opinions and views over the following 4/5yr period? How does that vote stand against 'the whip'/the party line? Does that vote mean I support my country going to war, or constantly spies on me? Does it mean I want 3000+ new criminal offences on the books? No it does not.

    Should my vote 'count' on the day where an MP may be elected because of it or not; it does not count for anything the day after. Voting is a mass delusion we all accept, a lie we tell ourselves, just like money. At least my money matters.

  22. mike2R

    "For those from elsewhere, we use the First Past the Post voting system, with each MP representing a specific geographical constituency. So, a majority of one is enough to win a seat .... "

    Just a little nitpick, since you aim that sentence specifically at non-Brits. While its common to talk about the winning margin of an MP within their constituency as their "majority", its actually the margin of their plurality - ie they don't have to get 1 vote more than 50% of votes cast in their constituency. Just 1 vote more than their nearest rival, even if all their rivals added together got many more votes than they did.

    1. Nigel Whitfield.

      Yes, good point, thanks for the correction.

    2. J.G.Harston Silver badge

      Case in point: Caroline Lucas won Brighton Pavillion with 31% of the vote, 2.5 percentage points ahead of her nearest rival.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    comparison with 1945

    In 1945, there hadn't been a general election for 10 years and the turn-out wasn't that much higher than 1935.

    I note also that though the 1950 turn-out as a percentage was high, there were more votes cast in 1974 than 1950 (due to population increase and extension of voting to 18 year olds?)

    1. Nigel Whitfield.

      Re: comparison with 1945

      Yes, you're quite right. The statistics can be pulled apart in all sorts of different ways, and it was very tempting. However, the main thing I wanted to look at was eVoting, and whether or not it has made a difference in places like Estonia. The lower percentage of people participating is what exercises the minds of politicians when they talk about engagement, rather than the absolute numbers, which are only considered important when it suits them.

      Plus, I'd already ended up writing twice as much as I told ElReg I would!

  24. This post has been deleted by its author

  25. magickmark
    Alien

    Lets not forget the Lizards

    Just a reminder and to bring in the great man back into the conversation I offer the following quote!

    To set the scene an extra-terrestrial robot and spaceship has just landed on earth. The robot steps out of the spaceship and says…

    “I come in peace,” it said, adding after a long moment of further grinding, “take me to your Lizard.”

    Ford Prefect, of course, had an explanation for this, …

    “It comes from a very ancient democracy, you see…”

    “You mean, it comes from a world of lizards?”

    “No,” said Ford, who by this time was a little more rational and coherent than he had been, having finally had the coffee forced down him, “nothing so simple. Nothing anything like to straightforward. On its world, the people are people. The leaders are lizards. The people hate the lizards and the lizards rule the people.”

    “Odd,” said Arthur, “I thought you said it was a democracy.”

    “I did,” said ford. “It is.”

    “So,” said Arthur, hoping he wasn’t sounding ridiculously obtuse, “why don’t the people get rid of the lizards?”

    “It honestly doesn’t occur to them,” said Ford. “They’ve all got the vote, so they all pretty much assume that the government they’ve voted in more or less approximates to the government they want.”

    “You mean they actually vote for the lizards?”

    “Oh yes,” said Ford with a shrug, “of course.”

    “But,” said Arthur, going for the big one again, “why?”

    “Because if they didn’t vote for a lizard,” said Ford, “the wrong lizard might get in. Got any gin?”

    Douglas Adams - So Long and Thanks For All The Fish

  26. DrXym Silver badge

    There is nothing wrong with e-voting machines

    Providing the machine issues a printed receipt that you drop in a box so the votes can be tallied. Make it a rule that marginal votes and a random selection of polling stations have their votes counted by hand to ensure compliance. And open the hardware and software to a full audit.

    Of course Britain uses a first past the post system where e-voting wouldn't make a huge difference. Vote counting usually happens fast enough. It would be countries with transferrable votes or other systems of proportional representation that would benefit the most. Counting in Ireland can take days sometimes.

  27. Kinetic

    The basic flaw with the whole democratic process as sold to us is that you cannot ever know what the parties not in power would actually do, and will only have a slight idea what a party that has actually been in power would do if elected again.

    This leaves you with two options:

    1) Believe everything they say and vote accordingly (good luck with that).

    2) Vote against a party that you want to get out of power / vote for more of the same.

    Personally I go for option 2, so that means that I either vote Conservative or Labour depending on how disenfranchised I am. Personally I feel that the current incumbents have done a decent job given the circumstances, so would rather not roll the dice to see what happens with Labour in.

    It's an imperfect system, but it beats the hell out of the alternative for changing unpopular rulers, civil war and genocide.

    Getting the voting turn-out higher.... why... because more is better? Big numbers are nicer? They were given the option to vote, they can't be bothered to even express that view. If you encourage them to vote, all you are doing is nullifying someone else's carefully considered view. Personally I'd like it to go the other way, have some sort of an entrance exam to see if you have been paying attention:

    Which countries have this government been at war with in the past 5 years?

    To the nearest £100 billion, what is our current national debt?

    How long is it expected to take to pay this back given normal economic conditions (to the nearest decade)?

    You could even publicise the questions in the run-up, to force potential voters to take a rudimentary interest in what's been going on. You'd have to get at lest 50% right to have your vote count.

    Never gonna happen, but hey.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Try asking all politicians those questions, if you get the same answer twice, BINGO you win a prize...

  28. AndrueC Silver badge
    Meh

    When you're choosing 'the best of a bad bunch' it's hard to motivated. It's even harder to give a damn when the two main parties have borrowed so much off each other that it's hard to spot the underlying ideology and the alternative parties have too many silly ideas or are just too bland and faceless.

    The only time I was ever seriously motivated to place my vote was when Kinnock acted like he was going to win a few days before the election and I immediately realised I had to act to help stop it.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Coat

    Misframed question

    The issue is the voter turn out, not so much the ease of voting.

    Making voting as easy as switching on your TV won't make much difference in the amount of people voting. A slight increase due to overcoming voters disabilities or laziness.

    The missing item for most voters is party differentiation. If parties X, Y & Z are only marginally different why vote? If parties X, Y & Z are vastly different with a high probability of getting elected then you'll have a high turn out for people voting directly and defensively.

    The high turn-out voting years (1945 to 1955) had parties that were worlds apart and offering vastly different policies. Establishment vs socialism.

    .

    For a high turn out there needs to be polarizing issue with parties on different ends of the spectrum.

    1. Nigel Whitfield.

      Re: Misframed question

      Exactly; the Scottish referendum showed that if people think it's an important issue, they will register and they will vote - even without fancy things such as electronic voting systems.

      But where so many votes are taken for granted, and most of the parties represent slightly different shades of a post-Thatcher consensus, no wonder a lot of people are disengaged.

      It's not helped by hysterical media desperate to maintain the status quo; I heard someone on the radio describe "progressive" as "code for hard left" (admittedly it was Richard Madely, so not one of the great thinker of our time, but still given airtime nevertheless). And you just have to look at the claims like "Stalinism" or "Worst Crisis since the Abidication" thrown around by the Mail to see how much pressure there is on politicians not to differentiate in a significant manner.

  30. Joey M0usepad Silver badge
    Trollface

    estonia - embracing the future!

    hardcore tech being used for real stuff.

    You luddites have to get with the program and stop screaming "civil liberties!" evertime som progress is made. Hi tech isnt just for playing candy crush and amiga emulators you know!

    1. Nigel Whitfield.

      Re: estonia - embracing the future!

      I'm not sure "luddites" is the best way of describing readers of ElReg; most of them are very keen on technology, I should imagine.

      Cynics, certainly. But not luddites.

    2. Solmyr ibn Wali Barad

      Re: estonia - embracing the future!

      Gosh. Is it September already?

      /edit: Never mind, irony detector malfunctioned a bit. Upvoted./

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Jaded by all political parties

    It's not the trek to the voting station, or the ease of e-voting which would ease this burden, that is preventing people from voting.

    It's the fact that they are all clowns - they have the same policies, the same self-serving attitude, and the fact that they are all unable to make a difference since most laws come from the unelected EU and they are all beholden to 'the City' who put this country into the shit in the first place.

    There is very little the UK Government can actually DO to make a difference to peoples lives - they can tinker with the finances, but they can't affect the economy when it's the banks that cause it to crash. They can tinker with the UK laws, but the major ones are imposed on the country by the EU. They can all talk about surveillance laws, but whilst the spooks are in charge, all politicians of all parties give us the same snooping laws in the end.

    Till they start to recognise they work for us, and not themselves or their wealthy mates, then they are all as bad as each other.

  32. Banksy

    It could be done

    An e-voting system could be done, it doesn't have to be modelled on Estonia. I think a reasonable approach would be to use the Internet and a random key generator tied to a government issued user ID. This would not require an ID card.

    To get the user ID and key generator you would have to go to a council office and take some other form of government issued ID (passport, Driving License, etc).

    If this sort of system is suitable for your bank accounts why not voting.

    What I don't argue with is the question of is it worth it. The cost of the IT infrastructure, the cost of the key generators and issuing them, etc, etc would probably be very significant (and add 50% for government bungling).

    The argument that some people can't afford the Internet is ridiculous. The use of a limited number of polling stations would address this together with free Internet access at libraries, they could even set up temporary stations in council offices for this purposes. The idea that people shouldn't have to go out and vote in the rain when that is what they do right now is similarly ludicrous.

    Not sure what the point of the article was since it drew no conclusion however it did at least start some debate.

    1. Nigel Whitfield.

      Re: It could be done

      The point with regard to voting in libraries, or voting in the rain, is not that it's necessarily a bad thing, it's that it runs a very real risk of creating two tiers of voter.

      There will be those for whom voting is simple and straightforward, who can do it at their leisure, without even leaving home.

      And there will be those for whom it is considerably more effort (and you're assuming there is even a library with internet access near them; the last few years has seen provision scaled back dramatically).

      What's a "limited number of polling stations" ? This is the sort of fiddling round the edges that can result in serious problems further down the line. If someone decide to scale back the number dramatically, then that could mean that some rural voters, for example, have to travel a substantial distance to be able to vote. In certain cases, they may be at the mercy of limited - and expensive - public transport.

      Is a voting system fair if for some people, it is much harder to exercise their right? That's the sort of thing that, I think, needs to be considered very carefully in any changes.

      And, as I think I made fairly clear, even in the country that's held up as the example for this sort of thing, they still don't surpass our levels of turnout. Of the people with whom I spoke, none said "oh yes, I'd be more likely to vote if I could do it electronically."

      I set out to see if, given the worries about falling participation, e-voting would be the solution. And I think I did conclude that, not only does it not appear to increase turnout, but a lot of people feel that it would be solving a different problem, rather than the issue of why they may not vote.

      1. MrXavia

        Re: It could be done

        Mobile Phone Voting, get sent a code in the post,

        have it say...

        Text this number with your code + party of your choice to win a prize!

        Each code can only be used once....

        Every body has a mobile, or NEARLY everyone...

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Votes should be cast in private but counted in public. eVoting allows for neither.

  34. The Dude

    E-vote is progress but not quite enough

    E-voting would be convenient, but it does not address the most serious problems with voting. The most-serious problems are fundamental, not procedural. For example, one problem is the binary nature of voting. Cast a vote "for" or cast a vote "against" and that's it, with no measurement of how strongly for or how strongly against.

    Then there is the "log rolling" problem, within political parties. I don't care about policy A and you don't care about policy (or candidate) "B", so I vote your way on Policy A (which you do care about) and you agree to vote my way on policy (or candidate) "B", which I do care about. I think this is the problem that is mostly responsible for the constant replacement of one idiot political leader with another idiot political leader, and never any improvement.

    A possible solution to those (and other) problems, that also has the potential to solve all the security problems: Issue fixed numbers of votes to each eligible citizen each year, to be use in any and all elections, or even in "direct democracy" decisions. Each "vote" can be tracked, they are tradeable (and therefore anonymous) and auditable if necessary. Proxy voting becomes more realistic, and a host of democracy deficits simply vanish.

    All candidates for election will have TWO ballot boxes, one "for" and one "against" and that consigns "strategic voting" to the scrap heap of history.

    And most importantly, people could cast any number of their issued votes, up to whatever they hold, for any issue (or candidate) - for or against, and register the strength of their support or opposition to matters of importance. Any unused votes can be saved for subsequent years.

    Worth consideration.

    1. Nigel Whitfield.

      Re: E-vote is progress but not quite enough

      I have to say that's one of the most radical proposals I've heard and at first glance, it seems very interesting. I shall have to think about it more, especially their concept of tradeable votes. What if, for example, MegaEvilCorp offers to buy votes from people whom are desperately poor? Even without such a skewed scenario, there may be potential for mischief,incentiviwsing people in various ways.

      Potentially, too, a system in which you use up your votes may be awkward. What's to stop a cynical government proposing something they know will use up lots of "against" votes? They take a gamble on people being really outraged, eg, by a proposal to introduce conscription at the end of university, and lots of young people use up a load of their votes.

      Three months later, they announce a proposal to increase tuition fees in order to subsidise pensions. Young people have fewer votes left. Older ones rub their hands with glee and cash in at the polls.

      So, while I think it's an idea to explore, it would need safeguards.

      1. The Dude

        Re: E-vote is progress but not quite enough

        I agree, it is untested and may need some safeguards incorporated. It would be best to start small, a test run within a smaller political organization and work out any bugs. A small political party would be ideal, since political parties are a miniature version of government, in most respects.

      2. The Dude

        Re: E-vote is progress but not quite enough

        To more-directly answer your questions, MegaEvilCorp (aka government) already does buy votes, with various promises of benefits to different groups. The proposal offer any cure for that, but neither does it make it any worse. If somebody did offer to buy votes from the poor, at least the poor might actually derive some meaningful benefit from the political system.

        Gaming is always an issue, in every system. It is true that gaming would continue to be done, just differently.

        On balance, there should be a net improvement in political decision-making

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not an election

    The voter looked from Tory to Labour, and from Labour to LibDem, and LibDem to Tory, and from Tory to Labour again, but already it was impossible to say which was which.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Not an election

      The colour of their ties.

      Don't think there is any other difference.

      Private educated, career politician with a work history in lobby groups and a retirement plan involving being a silent partner of some company corporation.

      Truely representative of the people.

      1. MrXavia

        Re: Not an election

        Nothing wrong with private education... Most people who are privately educated don't end up politicians, but even Private Schools have their failures...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Not an election

          True there is nothing wrong with being privately educated.

          The problem arises when a small sector of society is the only one represented.

          For example, would it be a fair society if all of the political leaders and top civil servants came from one of three coal mines or would we get one that has difficulties in seeing the plight of the bankers?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: but already it was impossible to say which was which.

      Based on the ridiculously lowe number of upvotes, I would say that educational standards must have fallen significantly since I were at school.

      And I weren't even a student of English. As you can probly tell, innit.

      Search engines, dear reader. Look it up, then read (or even just watch the movie, it's been on TV in the UK in the last few weeks, and of course it's on Youtube. But be aware that the movie ending was adjusted from the original book).

      Search engines are not really a substitute for a proper education, and schooling probably isn't a proper education either, but hey, it's all there is for most folk.

  36. Roj Blake Silver badge

    Diebold

    In 2004 the CEO of Diebold (the manufacturer of Ohio's voting machines) pledged to deliver Ohio to GW Bush in that year's presidential election.

    Bush took Ohio by a whisker.

  37. All names Taken
    Alien

    Wrong question?

    Maybe the theme of the question should be rephrased from 'what is wrong with e-voting' to something like 'how will people be able to use and/or abuse e-voting'?

    I mean the box is just a box whether it is a big steel one or a digital virtual one and notions of finality are newish concepts (any vote can be changed and all votes are finalised at blah-blah time of such-n-such date?)

    The problem will always be people rather than objects until it is costed that is?

  38. Dharmesh Mistry

    Yup, not a technology issue, multi-channel voting was shown in 1999.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KR8Gu6ZEU2A

    Has big advantages for elderly and disabled....as well as the lethargic ;o)

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Forget e-voting. How about e-politics?

    Imagine if we could go online, fill in our wish list for the policies that we actually want and it would create political parties based on the various like minded groups that come out of it. A bit of crowd sourcing for policies and Bob's your candidate for the cat pictures party. That would be real democracy (scary stuff).

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    XP?? Seriously??

    Who in their right mind, would ever consider putting such a system on a windows platform? A system which needs to be secure should be proprietary and unique. The hardware should also be proprietary. Hardware encryption should also be the norm.

    The lottery machine in the newsagent's is more secure than any windows based device. Why can they not use something along those lines? In fact a voting machine will need to be simple and secure. That means no windows, no java, no .net, no adobe, no internal storage (other than caching).

    There is no reason why electronic voting cannot be done on proprietary, cheap but secure hardware in voting booths.

  41. Nigel Whitfield.

    Updating the stats

    The turnout for 2015 in the UK was 66.1 - a small increase over the previous 2010 general election, where it was 65.1

    Possibly worth noting that this still puts us above the turnout level in e-vote equipped Estonia, which was 64.2%.

    I have had some young people say to me they would be more likely to vote if they could do it online, but whether that would make a big difference, I don't know.

    Across the UK, turnout wasn't evenly balanced - it was 71.1 in Scotland, so was likely below that 66.1 in England.

    You could, perhaps, make an argument that part of the difference there was a party articulating a clear vision, while in the rest we had parties mostly picking apart the competition, rather than saying positive things about themselves.

    The registration issue may need revisiting too - in some areas, it was a bit of a mess. Perhaps that's not surprising, considering the change to individual registration happened just 10 months before the election.

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