High time we had online voting…

Every year when I complete my electoral registration I ask for a postal vote. This involves me, if I’m well enough, going out to post back a form confirming that yes, I did mean, when I asked for a postal vote, that I actually wanted one.

Then there’s the vote itself, which has to be posted a couple of weeks before the election (I think, and also if I’m well enough**), an election for which I usually have no information upon which to base a decision (well, OK, I’d vote Labour, always have, but the lazy-arse candidates don’t know that).

**Which can never be guaranteed – at the time of writing I haven’t been out for over 2 months.

Then, today, it’s the Police and Crime Commissioner vote. Ignoring the tautology (the crime bit, in police commissioner, surely goes without saying), or is this a new feature, unique to the UK, in which the buggers actually commission crimes? Wouldn’t surprise me.

So where’s my postal vote for that? Haven’t got one. I do have an enormous polling card, several times the size of the normal ones (why?), which assures me that my polling station might be accessible. Might? WTF is that about? And what am I supposed to do if it’s not?

And it goes without saying that I have not the smallest nugget of information from any of the candidates.

So anyway, sod it, I’m having a bad day and I’m not even dressed.

But no postal vote – that’s a bugger.

The thing is, I always complete my electoral registration online. This year, though, the website no longer existed – just a “This domain name might be for sale” message, so I had to do it by phone, and the automated system just needed me to confirm that nothing had changed since last year. That, however, clearly didn’t encompass my postal vote which, for this year at least, is lost.

Of course, these problems, and others, could be eliminated by the introduction of online voting – as long as some dumb bugger doesn’t wreck the website!

I mean, there’s no real difficulty in making an online voting system secure, as banks have proved. Every person, for example, has two numbers which uniquely identify them – their National Insurance number and their National Health number. OK, many have more, but everybody has those two while not everybody has a driving licence or passport.

Most people seem unaware of the NH number, unless they’re admitted to hospital (it’s on the wristband and on OPD appointment letters), but it’s there to be used.

So, we have two unique identifiers. Add one or maybe two passwords, or phrases, that we create – or half a dozen, randomly selected by computer, as happens in banking** – and surely that should be enough security? A damned sight more secure than postal voting which, in the past, has been massively abused.

** For banking I use, among much else, a name from my family, the existence of which is known only to me as I’m the only living person that knows it, and a date plucked at random from The Lord of the Rings. plus appendices, converted to a different, and obscure, calendar. Good luck guessing that, considering how date-heavy LOTR is, never mind figuring out the right calendar. I’d do something similar for online voting if I ever get the chance!

Why do I need online voting? Simple – in front of my computer is where I spend most of my life. Sad – but true. I mostly don’t use my postal vote, as I said, as the system requires me to go to the post box on two separate occasions, these days mostly not possible.

I wonder how many disabled people are disenfranchised in this way? (Note for journalists – this is all disenfranchised means – being deprived of the vote – it does not describe rioting and looting youths.)

I know we can nominate a proxy, but that just doesn’t appeal as we have absolutely no control over which way our proxy will vote, or even if they’ll remember, which leaves online voting and, try though I might, I simply cannot see any viable reason why, if the will was there, it couldn’t be implemented, and implemented quickly. After all, it’s not as if we aren’t all already in one government database or another.

And hey, if they can do it for the census, and Universal Credit** claims, then there really is no excuse for not having online voting.

**The UC system seems set to crash in flames, probably more the fault of the technologically-illiterate morons Freud and IDS than anything else, yet IDS, in his usual deranged way, refuses to see the problems and delay its launch, which is, literally and metaphorically, madness.

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14 thoughts on “High time we had online voting…

  1. Now see, if online voting was to come about that would mean that people like you and I (disabled and poor) could actually vote. This would also mean that those who over the past years haven’t got the energy! or the brains to get off their erses and go and vote, could actually do it online. Therein lies a big problem – labour would probably get loads more votes than normal as it’s mainly the disabled, poor, elderly and needy that stay at home rather than go to vote (as well as those others mentioned above!). This would be a huge blow to other parties so I don’t think it will ever come in in my lifetime (I wish it would). I try and get to all votes but have had to give in and ask for a postal vote. As you said, it involved going to post a letter to confirm this.
    I try so hard to be one of the people who vote with their feet (or postbox) as I cannot abide those who just waste their vote by not going and then they whinge for the next four years ‘cos things are going so badly! Idiots!
    It’s a great idea to have online voting – it really is and as you said, it’s so easy to set up and be secure. I truly believe that many more would vote and that’s what we need – maybe, just maybe the country would stop being so apathetic! Or would it?
    We are not having a PCC vote, but then I’m in Sunny Scotland :) were things are different.

    • There’s a rumour that voting is to be made compulsory.

      If so, then it has to be made possible for everyone to vote, which means online voting must be provided as that’s the only way of ensuring everyone can vote.

      A downside would be that every political party would have our email addresses to ensure everyone is fully informed. Fair enough – it’s not hard to set up a mailbox just for that. Or a filter!

      • I think in some ways that it should be compulsory – if you are given a box with “No” on the ballot paper for those who genuinely cannot pick a candidate. You are right about filtering and mailboxes as well – but we already know that each vote can be traced back to the voter anyway. I wouldn’t like them to have my proper email address so would make up a new one :)
        I am not in favour of prisoners having the vote – don’t know why but it seems to me that you are put in prison for punishment (I know that there are people there who shouldn’t be), so your rights are supposed to be taken away from you. But then again, that’s a whole different discussion.

        • Prison, of course, is not just about punishment, but rehabilitation, too – I think it’s hard to claim to be rehabilitating someone if you remove every last vestige of their civil rights and responsibilities.

  2. Thank you for the reminder Ron; normally a postal voter but I have not received the form so just went to polling station to vote for anyone except http://www.kenmaddock.org.uk/. A cursory search might suggest why Mr Maddock is not my preferred candidate..

    I will be phoned one a fresh postal vote form has been issued so will be able to vote by giving the poll officials the completed new one.

  3. First we need to get a computer into every household, it’s sad that so many people in this day and age don’t have one. I got my postal vote out, but I would prefer online.

    If this country is going to come out of this recession and thrive they need to invest in the rest of us who are not loaded, put a computer in each home, invest in education and training. Take care of disabled and sick people and put a stop to all the damn corruption.

    • Thing is, Bev, it’s not quite as simple as putting a computer in every home that doesn’t have one, not least because some people have zero interest in computers, or in being online. But for the sake of argument, lets assume everyone buys into the idea – that’s a few million people – who pays?

      More cost-effective, surely, is the creation of computer centres in schools (most people seem to live within walking distance of at least one school).

      And in either case, what of the cost, which is going to be monstrous? At a time when hundreds of thousands of people are, or are going to be, in dire straits after losing their disability benefits, we really cannot, I believe, justify splurging on potentially millions of PCs, printers, and broadband accounts, in the hope that it might pay dividends. And what of tuition? Who pays for the instruction of millions of families? And for the constant attention for the quite high proportion who will never grasp computers if they live to be 1,000? Those of us for whom it’s instinctive can so easily forget how hard it can be for those for whom computers will be forever alien. There will have to be a considerable, and permanent, support infrastructure – more, lots more, money needed.

      And sorry, Bev, but I can’t see how the wholesale provision of computers (or computer centres), will pull the country out of recession. It’ll make it easier for more people to hunt for jobs that aren’t there, but I can’t see anything beyond that. The project might put whatever company wins the contract, after palms have been greased, into profitability, but beyond that, I’m at a loss to see any benefit to the economy as a whole.

  4. well it wasn’t a general thing, people not getting their voting paper for the police commissioners votes. i got mine no problem. agree about the difficulties of posting though. i have to get my daughter to post for me at the times i cant go out. failing that i have a very honest regular postman who has posted all sorts for me.even sending off a couple of small parcels for me. i gave him what i thought it would cost, he left the receipt,change etc in my locked post box for me.that was during some very snowy weather. but anytime i need anything posting he will do it for me. i buy my stamps online so can just put the postage on now so he just drops it in the bag when he gets back to work.
    as for EVERYONE owning computers i know of at least one old person who will not give one houseroom/ far as she is concerned its devils work. a lot of people couldn’t walk to a centre either no matter whether its within walking distance or just next door. and as Ron points out, how people are going to claim benefits if they’ve lost them once and lost everything along with it, is beyond me.or afford to keep one going and pay for their broadband etc even if they still do have a home.

          • to be honest i haven’t been in a postal station for around 16 years.possibly more.i was so disappointed in 1997 (I wasn’t allowed to vote,,,but read on) when we had been getting cuts to social services etc back then and after coming out of hospital after a major operation, found that, although i lived alone and my surgeon had stipulated no, graduating to most, housework over the next 6 weeks and no using vac cleaner for 6 months,i could get no help because of the cuts.they said it was because i had had the foresight to fill my freezer and fridge, and cupboards beforehand so didn’t need any shopping doing. (i did, for fresh stuff but seems that didn’t count) and if i wanted a cleaner they didn’t do home helps anymore so i would have to employ an agency cleaner at 6quid an hour (like hell..dont believe in agency staff where half the money paid goes to someone who sits on their fat asses doing nothing while the cleaner etc does the donkey work plus 6 quid was a lot of money to someone existing on 25 quid a week cos of being left with debts got on by her ex.)anyway i mounted a one woman campaign, typed a letter out. took it to my former workplace. had them copy it 20 plus times they used their franking machine so i then sent it to all the electoral candidates.present MP’s,wrote to Margaret Thatcher(lot of good that did) ,local Councillors and various other bodies including my GP, hosp n my surgeon.
            The week before the election, i was suddenly given this bungalow in my home town in Yorkshire.) i was in Bedfordshire at the time but it was too late for me to change my voting details so i couldn’t vote. and i had only one week to see and agree to take the place. after waiting 5 years for an exchange ,getting none so having to resort to a transfer from a 2 bed terrace to the only accommodation they would give me,a 1 bed bungalow, i wasn’t about to turn it down for politics.once up here i was near family again and for some reason until the postal voting came in i didn’t vote. only in the last few years have i started getting more interested in politics after or during Blair’s term.

  5. Surprised that you did not receive a postal vote, Ron. I received mine for the PCC election in the same way I have for previous national and local elections. I received a card several weeks ago advising me that I should receive the actual voting papers by a certain date and they duly arrived. You might want to complain to your local council’s returning officer. Either http://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/ or http://www.aboutmyvote.co.uk/ will provide the contact details. If your council has failed to send out *any* postal voting papers, i.e. yours is not an isolated case, that might raise questions over the validity of the election.

    • Not too bothered – just making a point about the screwed-up system – no-one I want to vote for in the foreseeable future, and it’s almost impossible to get an election invalidated, as yesterday’s farce will demonstrate.

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