Online voting for industrial action is “long and unfairly overdue”

strike-placardsThe UK Government has announced details of the independent review into online voting for trade union strike ballots, which was secured as part of the 2016 Trade Union Act. The review will be undertaken by former Chief Fire and Rescue Adviser for England, Sir Ken Knight CBE QFSM.

The Knight Review will examine certain issues surrounding online voting for industrial action ballots including:

  • the risks of interception, impersonation, hacking, fraud, or misleading or irregular practices associated with electronic balloting
  • whether systems can be safeguarded to reduce the risk of intimidation of union members and protect the anonymity of voters
  • the security and resilience of existing practices of balloting union members

Many of these issues are already covered in WebRoots Democracy’s ‘Secure Voting‘ report, which itself was cited on multiple occasions during the Trade Union Bill debates.

junior-doctors-strike
Trade union strike ballots currently have to be conducted using postal voting.

Welcoming the review, Areeq Chowdhury, Chief Executive of the Institute for Digital Democracy said:

“It’s fantastic news that the Government are commencing their review into online voting for strike ballots. It is a reform that is long and unfairly overdue. Online voting is already used by the Conservatives, Labour, the SNP, the Liberal Democrats, and the Green Party, and it makes little to no sense to prevent trade unions equally taking advantage of 21st century technology.

Had Andrea Leadsom not pulled out of the Conservative Party leadership race earlier this year, the Prime Minister of Great Britain would have been elected with online voting. Any decision to prevent trade union members from voting online in strike ballots would rightly lead to accusations of hypocrisy.

As our Secure Voting report shows, there are a number of mitigation strategies that can be used to combat the risks associated with online voting, and in many cases online voting is in fact more secure than existing methods of balloting, particularly postal balloting.

We look forward to finding out further details about the Knight Review, and to contributing our knowledge and expertise in this area.”

Trade unions have been campaigning for the ability to use electronic balloting methods for over a decade, and the Knight Review presents a real opportunity to advance not just this cause, but the cause of digital democracy more generally in wider society.

Commenting on the announcement of the review, Frances O’Grady, General Secretary of the Trades Union Congress said the reform “should be an uncontroversial move welcomed by anyone who values democracy.”

From 2007 to 2013, Sir Ken Knight was the Government’s Chief Fire and Rescue Adviser for England, advising Ministers and senior officials on fire policy matters and, providing advice during emergencies together with operational advice on preparedness and response during the 2012 Olympics.

The Institute for Digital Democracy will be compiling a response to submit to the Knight Review. If this is something you would wish to be involved with, please email hello@webrootsdemocracy.org.

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