Online voting to be introduced in Gujarati elections

In what’s been described as a ‘one of its kind project in Asia’, the Gujarat Election Commission in India has announced that an online voting option is to be introduced for the October local authority elections this year.

Speaking about the decision, Secretary of the Gujarat Election Commission, M V Joshi said:

“This is a one of it’s kind project in Asia.  No other election commission in India is offering this.  We expect the facility to be availed by those who have no time to come out to booths and vote.  Now that voting is compulsory in the local body elections from this time, the online facility will facilitate and complement the same.”

In 2014, the state passed a bill making voting mandatory and ensuring a 50:50 male-female gender balance in local bodies.

Regarding the security of the system, Joshi said:

“Voters will have to use the same hardware for which the verification has been done.  At the time of voting, a one-time password will be sent to their mobile phones, which will be followed by verification online.  Then, the voter will be allowed to cast the vote online.”

Laxmi Vilas Palace, Vadodara, Gujarat

Laxmi Vilas Palace, Vadodara, Gujarat

The announcement comes shortly after Lithuanian Government approved proposals for online voting in Presidential, Parliamentary, Local, and European Parliament elections.  It also follows shortly after the 10th anniversary of electronic voting in Estonia.

The online voting method in Gujarat will be used for all six municipal corporations of Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Surat, Rajkot, Bhavnagar, and Jamnagar.

The combined population of these areas is approximately 14.7 million.

Do you think the UK should introduce an online voting option for elections?  Take a moment to sign and share our e-petition.

VIDEO: Estonian PM votes in just two and a half minutes

“Hello world, let me show you how voting is done in the most digital country in the world.”

In a video marking 10 years of electronic voting in Estonia, the Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas explains how online voting is done in Parliamentary elections.

Estonia is currently the only country in the world to use online voting in Parliamentary elections.

It’s been reported that the first day of online voting has already excelled the previous Parliamentary election with 22,011 people voting online compared to 18,676 in 2011.

In 2011, the number of online votes cast was almost five times larger than in 2007 with a total of 140,764 out of 580,264 votes cast via the internet.  This amounted to 24.3% of the total number of votes.  The percentage of online votes cast by voters aged 24 and under was 9%.

Lithuania have recently announced that they will also be introducing online voting in national elections mirroring the Estonian system.

For more information on online voting in Estonia, please view this post here.

Do you think the UK should introduce an online voting option for elections?  Take a moment to sign and share our e-petition.

Lithuanian Government approve bid to allow online voting in elections

It has been reported that the Lithuanian Government has approved a proposal put forward by Members of Parliament to introduce an online voting option in elections.  This covers Presidential, Parliamentary, Local, and European Parliament elections.  It also covers referenda.

A survey conducted by the Lithuanian Ministry of Justice found that 65% of Lithuanians are in favour of online voting.

In a press release, the Prime Minister, Algirdas Butkevičius said that “such a form of voting is very relevant for people of younger age, furthermore, online voting would be a far more convenient option for citizens who live outside Lithuania.”

Vilnius, Lithuania

The system will mirror the Estonian method of online voting and allow the public to vote online multiple times with only the last vote counting.  This acts as a safeguard against voters being pressured into voting for a particular party and acts as a disincentive to vote-buying.

The population of Lithuania stands at more than double that of Estonia at almost 3 million people.

Do you think the UK should introduce an online voting option for elections?  Take a moment to sign and share our e-petition.

David Cameron says he has ‘no objection’ to online voting

The UK Prime Minister, David Cameron has said in a live interview that he doesn’t have any objection to online voting.

Whilst taking part in Sky News’ #AskTheLeaders event this week, the Prime Minister and Leader of the Conservative Party was asked about his views on online voting and votes for 16 and 17 year olds.

In response to the question on online voting, Mr Cameron said:

“Online voting? I mean I don’t have any objection to it, but I think in a way we’re asking the wrong question.  The reason people don’t vote is not because it’s too complicated to go down to the polling station; the reason that people don’t vote is because they don’t believe it makes enough of a difference.”

After being asked a follow up question about whether politicians are in fact afraid of what would happen if more people voted, the Prime Minister replied:

“Look, I don’t have any great objection to it… but the reason people don’t vote is not because it’s too complicated to go down to the polling station.”

Despite his comments, making voting more accessible through an online system is something that a number of organisations have called for.

In 2010, the disability charity, Scope, called for an online voting option to be introduced after a survey they carried out found that more than two-thirds of the general election polling stations failed basic access tests.  In addition to this, 35% of those interviewed as part of their study said they would prefer to vote online.

Last year, the Royal London Society for the Blind (RLSB) called for online voting to be introduced in the 2020 election in order to ‘make voting easier for blind and partially-sighted people.’  A survey carried out by RLSB showed that two-thirds of blind and partially-sighted respondents had to give up their right to vote in secret at the May 2014 elections due to polling stations being ‘unequipped’ to assist voters with vision difficulties.

In September last year, a US Federal Judge ordered Maryland to allow disabled voters to fill out absentee ballots online in what has been described as a ‘civil rights issue’ for people with disabilities.

Aside from accessibility benefits, a number of studies have found that up to 80% of young people would be more likely to vote if they could do so online.  A survey carried out by WebRoots Democracy found that 71% of respondents would be more likely.

Whilst it doesn’t seem as though the Prime Minister is going to look to introduce online voting should he be re-elected in May, his comments this week are a significant improvement on his previous views.  In April last year, during a talk at Vodafone HQ, Mr Cameron said that politicians should not ‘pander’ to a generation that wants elections to be ‘just like voting on the X Factor.’ He also suggested that voters should make ‘rain-sodden’ journeys to the polling station due to voting being something that people have ‘died for’.

The comments made this week that he now doesn’t have any objection to online voting is significant and a reason for hope that cross-party agreement on the issue can one day be achieved.

The Sky News Stand Up Be Counted ‘Ask the Leaders’ event was hosted by Facebook and broadcast by Sky News on Monday 2nd February 2015.  The all-day event involved young people asking questions of the leaders of the Conservatives, Labour, the Liberal Democrats, and the Greens.

Do you think the UK should introduce an online voting option for elections?  Take a moment to sign and share our e-petition.

Youth apathy on a European scale?

By Alex Campbell.

It is a constantly repeated mantra that ‘young people today’ in the UK and Europe are uninterested in politics. Voter turnout is falling rapidly and the youth vote in particular is in freefall.

This is backed up by statistical evidence. The British Election Study from 2013 notes that turnout is lower among young people relative to older age groups, and has been falling sharply in the context of falling overall turnout at General Elections. The Eurobarometer study “European Youth: Participation in Democratic Life” tells a similar story EU-wide, with 21% of young voters not voting in any political election at the local, regional or national level in 2013 out of choice, up from 16% in 2011.

One explanation goes that, as the new generation becomes more and more disassociated from the political process, so policy becomes less responsive to our interests, about unemployment, a living wage and affordable housing, not to mention the environment. So this belief that politics is un-relatable, unrewarding and useless becomes more ingrained, and turnout drops in a vicious perpetuating cycle. The fact that it is impossible to vote online in the UK just adds to the out-of-date and detached feel of contemporary politics.

It appears that anyone between the ages of 18-24 or under 30 (depending on your definition of ‘young person’) is doomed to a life of political disenfranchisement and consequent invisibility.

Yet, thankfully, there is more to the story. I would like to introduce the European Parliament, the directly elected body of the European Union, (populated with Ukippers after the 2014 election) which is far more concerned with its democratic legitimacy than our current government despite sharing the same problem of youth disengagement. The European Parliament is currently hosting its European Youth Event hearings. Since December last year, young people from all over Europe, including the UK, have been presenting their ideas for new initiatives to the Parliament on issues such as youth unemployment, the digital revolution and the environment. They are standing up for their interests and bringing fresh perspectives to the table. Contributing to the political process. Getting involved. This event brings the youth and decision makers together. It proves there are those who still believe in the democratic process and are politically active.

I am proud to say there remain some young people, including British young people, who do want to participate in democracy, to vote. The best way to help increase youth turnout is to make voting more accessible. That is where the ability to vote online comes in. Online voting will be step in the right direction towards engaging the digital generation. It will also make it easier for first-time voters to get smart about exactly what it is that they are voting for. To put it simply, accessible, online voting will help provide the much-needed involvement of young people.

Alex Campbell is a Law graduate from the University of Kent and has lived and worked in Brussels for 18 months.

For more information on the European Youth Event, please visit their website here or follow them on Twitter.

It’s time for political parties to commit to online voting

By Areeq Chowdhury.

It’s time for political parties to commit to online voting.

The report published today by the Speaker’s Commission on Digital Democracy pulls together almost a year’s worth of detailed research into how Parliament can better engage with the electorate through the use of technology.

A strong and prominent recommendation within this report is that ‘by 2020, secure online voting should be an option for all voters.’ This echoes the call in a report by the House of Commons Political and Constitutional Reform Committee in November 2014 that urged the Government to run pilots in the next Parliament ‘with a view to all electors having the choice of voting online at the 2020 General Election.’

The Royal London Society for Blind People (RLSB) has also called for online voting to be introduced in time for the 2020 election.

Online voting is something that I have been campaigning hard for this past year through my work in setting up WebRoots Democracy.

So far, only the Labour Party have committed to trialling online voting in the next Parliament, with their political reform lead Sadiq Khan MP writing that democracy in the UK is ‘stuck in a time warp’.

Compared to the post-1945 elections of the 20th Century, the average turnout in General Elections this century has dropped by 14 percentage points to just 62%.

The picture is even worse when you examine the less high-profile elections in the UK. The average voter turnout for the London Mayor, Welsh Assembly, Local Council, and European Parliament elections are all less than 50%. The turnout in the 2012 Police and Crime Commissioner elections was a measly 15%.

Whilst there are other issues that affect voter participation such as trust in politicians, education, and the policies of political parties, there is lots of evidence to suggest that online voting would increase turnout.

In a survey carried out by WebRoots Democracy, 71% of respondents said they would be more likely to vote if they could do so online.

This is particularly the case amongst young people.

In a recent study of youth engagement by Demos and vInspired, researchers found that 66% of young people would be more likely to vote if they could do so online. Similarly, the Sky News Stand Up Be Counted survey found that 4 out of 5 young people would be more likely to do so.

It goes without saying that security is a key requirement for any voting system.

Estonia is the most notable example of secure online voting. They have been doing so in Parliamentary elections since 2007 and in their last election, in 2011, almost a quarter of all votes were cast online.

It’s now time for the UK to take a lead.

Today’s report is a very welcome one and I hope that all political parties give the recommendations within it serious consideration when they pull together their manifestos for the upcoming General Election.

Areeq Chowdhury is the Founder of WebRoots Democracy.

Do you think the UK should introduce an online voting option for elections?  Take a moment to sign and share our e-petition.

This was originally published on the Sky News website here.

VIDEO: How online voting in Estonia works

Watch the short video below for a quick overview of how online voting works in Estonia.

The 2007 Estonian Parliamentary elections saw a ‘world premiere‘ of the first time an electorate could vote over the internet in elections of a national parliament.

The number of online votes cast in in 2007 was 30,243 out of a total of 550,213.  This amounted to 5.4% of the total number of votes being cast via the internet.  The percentage of online votes cast by voters aged 24 and under was 11% with the smallest percentage coming from the 55 to 59 age category with 6%.  The turnout in the election was 62% of the population.

In 2011, the number of online votes cast was almost five times larger than in 2007 with a total of 140,764 out of 580,264 votes cast via the internet.  This amounted to 24.3% of the total number of votes.  The percentage of online votes cast by voters aged 24 and under was 9%.  The turnout in comparison to the 2007 elections had increased by 1.5% with a turnout of 63.5%.

Tallinn, Estonia

Tallinn, Estonia

In 2007, it was estimated that 63% of the Estonian population use the internet, with 53% of households having a computer, and with every school having an internet connection.

Preconditions to online voting included a ‘high e-readiness of the Estonian population‘.  Voting was conducted using electronic ID cards and a legislative basis was created by the Estonian Parliament in 2002.

Statistics about online voting in Estonia can be found here.