Scottish Government: E-voting pilots will go ahead

In response to a letter coordinated by WebRoots Democracy, the Scottish Government Minister for Parliamentary Business, Joe Fitzpatrick MSP, reaffirmed their commitment to undertaking pilots of electronic voting.

Our letter, co-signed by more than 30 leading academics and charity bosses, called upon the Scottish Government to “stay true to their commitment” to pilot online voting for elections.

Writing in response, Mr Fitzpatrick said that the Government sees pilots as “an opportunity to explore how electronic voting can increase voter participation and provide voters with choice and flexibility over how they vote and assist groups of people who might find voting in elections challenging.” In addition, he says “like you we are keen to recognise concerns from people with disabilities and are keen to ensure they can vote unaided and in secret.”

Joe Fitzpatrick Nicola Sturgeon
Joe Fitzpatrick MSP (centre) is leading the Scottish Government’s consultation on electoral reform.

The Scottish Government is currently holding a consultation on various electoral reforms, which closes on March 29th.

Concluding his letter, the Minister writes that “following the consultation’s conclusion and evaluation of results we will consider the scope and timing of the pilots and where and when they will take place.”

The full text of the response can be read below:

Dear Mr Chowdhury,

Many thanks to you and your co-signatories for your letter of 15 March in which you encourage the Scottish Government to hold online voting pilots. As you are aware the Scottish Government has been running a consultation on electoral reform. The consultation closes on 29 March 2018.

The consultation makes reference to our commitment already made in the Digital Scotland Strategy to pilot electronic voting. We look forward to hearing the views of a range of stakeholders, which will then inform how we take forward the pilots. We will include your response in the evaluation of all consultation responses.

We see the pilots as an opportunity to explore how electronic voting can increase voter participation, provide voters with choice and flexibility over how they vote and assist groups of people who might find voting in elections challenging.

You make some interesting points in your letter. Like you we are keen to recognise concerns from people with disabilities and are keen to ensure that they can vote unaided and in secret. We welcome any proposals for improving the accessibility of elections, including suggestions on how technology might help.

You raise an important point about the expectations of young people in relation to modernising elections which has been raised by others. You also make the point about the undoubted security challenges which any form of electronic voting presents. Ensuring the security of the technology and the integrity of the voting process during the pilots will be paramount.

Following the consultation’s conclusion and evaluation of results we will consider the scope and timing of the pilots and where and when they will take place. This will include considering whether the pilots will involve voting machines, online voting or both.

Thank you and your signatories again for your interest. We will keep you informed of progress.

Joe Fitzpatrick
Minister for Parliamentary Business

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