ELECTORAL COMMISSION – ONLINE VOTING – 16 December 2002

Dr Julian Lewis: What assessment the Electoral Commission has made of the implications for privacy of voting of the introduction of online voting?

Alan Beith (representing the Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission): The commission's evaluation of the May 2002 electoral pilots recognised concerns about the potential loss of privacy for voters involved in remote electronic voting and postal voting. However, the commission also noted that it was unaware of any evidence to suggest that remote voting led to an increase in formal allegations of electoral offences. The commission will continue to monitor closely the implications of remote voting.

[SUPPLEMENTARY:] I thank the right hon. Gentleman for the reassurance that the Commission is aware of the possibilities of abuse, but is it not also the case that the best and most effective forms of abuse are those which are least capable of being detected? If there is good reason for us having separate booths for privacy when we go to the polling stations to cast our vote, surely voting at home online opens up the possibility of undetected fraud whereby pressure is put on some members of a family to vote en bloc in a way that they might not in the privacy of the polling booth.

Mr Beith: One way to ensure that such pressure is not found too often is to make choice available to the electors as to how they cast their vote. Choice is one of the concepts that the commission has sought to encourage in its pilots so that people are not required to vote in ways that limit privacy.