Clearly Mr Stewart’s time spent glued to episode after episode of Love Island this summer would have been better spent delving into the controversies surrounding both the 2016 USA Presidential election and the 2016 EU referendum. Instead of watching the yet another quasi-lobotomised robot, with a washboard stomach, waffle on about ‘where their head is at’ in their pathetic, self-indulgent, fraudulent quest for lust disguised as romance, Mr Stewart would have discovered the trove of evidence showing the influence that a foreign power had in determining at least a decent part of the eventual outcome. If Russia was able to make such an impact on two vital democratic decisions via traditional means of voting, just think what havoc Mr Putin or indeed others could have had, if the voting had been conducted online.
Yes, there are issues with participation at elections in the UK and I do agree that low turnout does tend to cause issues for legitimacy. No doubt Mr Stewart will highlight some of the alarming figures in recent elections, namely the paltry 45% turnout at the 2011 AV referendum alongside various PCC elections where if half the local hockey team come along to vote, it would be judged as a decent turnout. But simply stating that this would be resolved by shifting all voting online is really failing to address the underlying cause of the so-called participation crisis; that people will turn their backs on the political system if they believed that they have no real stake in it. When there have been major issues at play, the recent turnout figures are actually rather good. Take the 2014 Scottish Independence Referendum where turnout was over 82%, or the 2014 EU referendum where it was just shy of 80%. The PCC election turnouts are not going to be resolved by simply moving the poll online; people have to realise what is at stake, and this really means both the candidates and government need to do more to educate people in order for them to see the vital need to turnout out to vote.
The key concerns I have about online voting is that it is far too risky. Think about what is at stake in a General Election. The current system normally gives us a government and a Prime Minister the following morning, allowing the crucial business of governing the country to start immediately. This in turn helps to stabilise both the pound and the markets. Now think how often your have sat in front of a PC monitor with a frozen screen, or the MacBook’s spinning wheel of doom, error messages, run time errors or a total desktop meltdown. How are we to know that this will not be happening up and down the country.
Secondly, have you ever tried to educate a member of the older generation on how to use the simplest aspect of technology. They may all have successfully survived the post war depression, but asking them to log into a windows operating system often appears to akin to getting them to hack into the deepest level of Pentagon security. Which leads me on to my final issues that I mentioned at the start of this article. Cyber crime continues to be one of the biggest threats to global security. In the past year, the UK has seen major hacking incidents to the NHS and Department of Defence from international ‘rogue elements’, intent on causing disruption to further weaken Britain’s position on the world stage. The cost of setting up online voting itself would be huge, but add to that the vast investment required in IT security which still will likely not work, given the complexities at play.
Online polls are a wonderful way for producers and marketers to further drag gullible viewers deeper into their vapid media offerings. Introducing online voting would be dangerous, disruptive and ultimately would be the beginning of the end to the successful free and fair elections that we have in the UK today.