Keeping paper voting: right policy, wrong reason

In six days, Britons will use stubby little pencils to put crosses next to people’s names on pieces of paper. In each of 650 areas, the person with the most crosses becomes a member of parliament. If more than half of those MPs come from one party, that party forms a government and its leader is prime minister. It’s easy to understand and trust.

If someone hacks your bank account, you will notice and will probably be able to get recompense. If someone hacks an election, you are unlikely to know unless your votes was published – which would rather undermine the concept of a secret ballot. Also, we can all understand people counting pieces of paper. Very few of us, including apparently many NHS organisations, can say likewise for computer security.

The Conservative party manifesto’s section on democracy has several questionable policies including a plan to “ensure that a form of identification must be presented before voting”; in the US, ‘voter ID’ schemes have been seen by opponents as racially discriminatory and a way to stop people voting. The manifesto has nothing to say about unregulated micro-targeted video advertising on Facebook.

But the Conservative pledge to “retain the traditional method of voting by pencil and paper” should be welcomed. The justification of ‘tradition’ is silly – although it fits the tone of this manifesto. The right reason is that keeping the stubby little pencils will maintain the integrity of voting.

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