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Watchdog boss blasts Britain's e-voting plans

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The chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life yesterday delivered a stinging attack on attempts to modernise the British voting system.

Speaking to the annual seminar of the Association of Electoral Administrators in Brighton, Sir Alistair Graham suggested that electoral fraud has increased sharply as a result of postal voting, and that e-voting should be postponed or scrapped.

"Let me make it clear that I am no Luddite," said Sir Alistair. "Alternative forms of voting may have their place." But, he said democracy was not "a pick 'n' mix commodity...voting is a civic duty, it is not like shopping".

The influential vigilance chief suggested that a decline in turnout could not be fixed by making the voting process easier, and that such initiatives merely opened up backdoors for electoral fraudsters.

He admitted that the number of votes cast in local elections had apparently increased in some areas following the introduction of postal balloting. However, he suggested that perhaps the extra votes had been posted in job lots by corrupt party hacks, rather than by individual stay-at-home citizens.

"Turnout at local elections has increased but can we be sure that it is genuine?"

Sir Alistair also revealed that a delegation from the Council of Europe is currently mulling whether to invoke international monitoring of British elections. The council normally monitors countries in the Balkans and the former USSR; the only western-European nation under examination is Monaco.

Ironically, despite the fact that democracy is a relatively recent innovation for many continental nations, they may – in the council's view – already be better at implementing it than the UK.

Against this background, Sir Alistair suggested that plans to pilot telephone, text, and e-voting during the upcoming May local elections should "be put on hold". He said the current situation was "akin to a bank which secures an individual's transactions but had not verified that individual's identity when he opened his account".

The full speech text is available here (Word document). ®

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