Academics and charity bosses write to Scottish Government to back pilots of online voting

More than 30 leading academics and charity bosses have written to the Scottish Government urging them to undertake pilots of online voting for elections. The letter comes as the Scottish Government consults on various electoral reforms including the potential of an online voting option for elections.

The group of signatories, led by WebRoots Democracy, set out the case for the reform citing the benefits for young people, voters with disabilities, and overseas military personnel. Acknowledging concerns around security, the group argue that they are challenges that ‘should be tackled through pilot schemes rather than avoided altogether.’

Signatories include leading academics in the fields of cyber-security and political science, as well the bosses of charities such as Disability Equality Scotland, the Royal Society for Blind Children, and the Army Families Federation. They further argue that failure to explore online voting will mean ‘a continuation of the status quo in which many citizens at home and abroad are left disenfranchised’ and ‘a continuation of a system that looks ever more outdated as time goes on.’

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More than 30 leading academics and charity bosses have called upon the Scottish Government to undertake pilots of a remote online voting option.

Research has found that online voting could provide a more accessible method of voting for those with disabilities and those overseas, as well as cut long-term election administration costs. Various opinion polls on the topic have found that the reform is particularly appealing amongst younger voters. A recent poll undertaken by WebRoots Democracy and YouGov found that it would be the most popular method of voting for those under the age of 55.

Areeq Chowdhury, Chief Executive of WebRoots Democracy, said:

“As we celebrate the centenary of the first women in the UK to be granted the right to vote, we should remain mindful of those in our society who are still, a hundred years later, unable to vote.

Online voting has the potential to dismantle barriers to an independent and secret ballot for many voters with disabilities and vision impairments, as well as British citizens overseas including many members of our Armed Forces. For the younger generations, online voting presents a method of voting that meets the expectations of the digital age.

We are pleased to see the Scottish Government explore this reform and hope they can lead the way by undertaking pilots of this important and exciting reform to our democracy.”

The full text of the letter sent to Joe Fitzpatrick MSP, Minister for Parliamentary Business, can be read below.

Dear Minister,

RE: Online voting for elections

We are writing to encourage the Scottish Government to undertake pilots of a remote online voting option for elections.

A strong, inclusive, and engaging democracy requires our electoral system to reflect the lives of the people it intends to serve. We very much welcome the consultation the Scottish Government is undertaking on electronic voting, and its positive stance towards online voting trials thus far.

An online voting option not only has the potential to provide a more convenient and modern method of voting, but it could dismantle barriers that have prevented many voters with disabilities and vision impairments from participating fully in our democratic process. For young people born into a world of smartphones and social media, it would provide an option that meets their expectations for a modern democracy. For citizens abroad, such as those in our Armed Forces, it would provide greater access to their right to vote.

Research has shown that online voting could make the administration of elections more efficient, more accessible, and more engaging. Opinion polls undertaken over the past few years have indicated that the public want online voting implemented, that it would increase the likelihood to vote, and that it would be the preferred method of voting (particularly for young people).

Of course, we agree that concerns around security need to be met, but they are challenges that should be tackled through pilot schemes rather than avoided altogether. In doing so, Scotland can lead the way in digital democratic reform and pave the way for the rest of the world. There are existing and emerging technologies which have the potential to enable secure online voting, and these must be explored. Failure to do so will mean a continuation of the status quo in which many citizens at home and abroad are left disenfranchised. It will mean a continuation of a system that looks ever more outdated as time goes on.

We urge the Government to hear our voices and stay true to their commitment to pilot online voting for elections. We would be very happy to meet with you to discuss the reform in greater detail.

Signed:

Areeq Chowdhury
Chief Executive
WebRoots Democracy

Professor Mark Ryan
Professor of Computer Security
University of Birmingham

Professor Kevin Curran
Professor of Cyber Security
Ulster University

Professor Matt Henn
Professor of Social Research
Nottingham Trent University

Dr David Galindo
Senior Lecturer in Computer Security
University of Birmingham

Dr George Theodorakopoulos
Lecturer in Computer Science and Informatics
Cardiff University

Dr Bingsheng Zhang
Lecturer in Cyber Security
Lancaster University

Dr Grammateia Kotsialou
Research Associate (Blockchain Voting)
King’s College London

Dr Luke Riley
Research Associate (Blockchain Voting)
King’s College London

Dr Peter Kerr
Senior Lecturer in Political Science
University of Birmingham

Dr James Sloam
Democracy and Elections Centre
Royal Holloway, University of London

Dr Andrew Blick
Senior Lecturer in Politics and Contemporary History
King’s College London

Dr Richard Barbrook
Senior Lecturer in Politics
University of Westminster

Dr Toby James
Senior Lecturer in Politics
University of East Anglia

Dr Andrew Mycock
Senior Lecturer in Politics
University of Huddersfield

Morven Brooks
Chief Executive Officer
Disability Equality Scotland

Dr Tom Pey
Chief Executive
Royal Society for Blind Children

Stuart Robertson
Director, Scotland
Leonard Cheshire Disability

Sara Baade
Chief Executive
Army Families Federation

Simon Woolley
Director
Operation Black Vote

Emma Mulqueeny OBE
Chief Executive
Rewired State

Tom Franklin
Chief Executive
Young Citizens (formerly The Citizenship Foundation)

Mete Coban
Chief Executive
My Life My Say

Michael Sani
Chief Executive
Bite the Ballot

Matteo Berghamini
Chief Executive
Shout Out UK

Rachel O’Brien
Disabled Students’ Officer
National Union of Students

Darren Jones MP
Labour Party

Lord Jim Knight
UK Government Minister 2005 – 2010
Visiting Professor at the London Knowledge Lab

Graham Allen
Chair of the House of Commons Political
Reform Select Committee 2010 – 2015

Edward Saperia
Dean of Newspeak House

Hanane Boujemi
Senior Technology Policy Advisor

Rachael Farrington
Founder of Voting Counts

Kate Willoughby
Creative Director, #Emilymatters

 

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