How online voting could save democracy

The so-called ‘Facebook generation’ has lost interest in politics. Turnout among 18 to 24-year-olds at the 2005 general election fell to a lowly 37%.

Online voting could save us from leafing through ballot papers

What can be done to persuade young people in particular to exercise their democratic right?

If the electorate can’t be bothered to travel to the ballot box, then perhaps it’s time to drag democracy into the 21st century with the internet.

We are more than happy to bank online, buy a giant 3D TV for a decent sum and even share our deepest secrets over email. So why can’t we vote in elections over the internet?

A government survey in March last year found that two-thirds of voters would be in favour of internet voting. Yet despite the promise of further investigation into e-democracy in 2007 from the last government, the idea appears to have been mothballed.

How would it work?

People could sign up to vote online in the same way they can currently apply for a postal vote by informing the authorities a few weeks before the election.

The online registration form could contain a username and password sent in a sealed envelope. The voter could also be asked for their date of birth or other personal details to prove it is them when they charge up their laptops. A webcam could even be used to take a picture of everyone who votes online.

Alternatively, popular social networking websites like Facebook could be used. All it would take is linking an account to a real person’s identity. This truly would be the Facebook generation of voters!

No’s to the left

Online voting wouldn’t be without its risks. Making sure the person casting the vote is who they say they are could be a problem. But is it any less secure than turning up at a polling station and only being asked to confirm your name, or sending a paper back through the post?

What would give the authorities sleepless nights is if the system went down on election night and lost votes, or was tampered with by mischievous hackers. Security would need to be watertight to avoid disaster.

Ayes to the right

The benefits of e-democracy outweigh the risks. It would be much easier for people to vote from the comfort of the seat in front of their desktop PC. The 18 to 24-year-old age group has the poorest turnout but is also the most tech-savvy, so turnout could increase dramatically with online voting.

An e-democracy could also end confusion with spoilt ballot papers. If a voter hasn’t filled in their paper properly then they could be prompted to correct it, or continue if they wish to register a protest vote.

Finally, the count could be more or less instantaneous and completely accurate. No more teams of tired people wading through small bits of paper at 4am – internet voting could provide quick and accurate results.

Would you be more likely to vote in an election if you could do so online? Comment below…