The procedure for voting in the UK has changed very little over the last 100 years, due to the rigorous nature of electoral law and practice.
As it currently stands the process for voting in a general election first requires you to sign up to the electoral register in order to be able to receive a ballot to vote. After signing up for the electoral register you can then cast your vote by one of three ways; in person, via postal or using a proxy. To cast your vote in person you need to attend a polling stations on the polling day, and then you cast your vote using a ballot paper and marking off with an X to indicate your party preference. Voters also have the option of applying for a postal vote which is again filled out by hand using pen and paper, or using a proxy voter that carries out one of the two above methods on your behalf. These physical votes are then taken and counted at the end of the day to reveal the results of the election.
Even though technology has well advanced the point of needing to vote using pen and paper the process has still been held back in the UK in part due to fears over security, voter fraud or knowing whether your ballot is 100% secret.
Technology has been creeping into the voting system elsewhere in the world. “E-voting” refers to the use of any electrical device whilst voting such as a touch-screen voting machine these can be find in some polling stations in the US. Although “E-voting” canmake counting easier and more reliable it still relies on the voter visiting a polling station in person on the date of the vote. However, “I-Voting” goes a step further by allowing participants to vote over the internet and therefore not requiring them to be at the polling station, or even the same country. Estonia is the only country that fully participates in “I-voting” and has began this process since 2005. Though many were sceptical of the process initially, the trust in the system grew and in the most recent election held in March 2019 44% of votes were cast online.
“I-voting” uses digital ID cards to allow for secure authentication of the voter online and enables further identification through a digital signature and now with newer cards fingerprints are being used. In order to “I-vote” in Estonia you need a secure computer, internet access and either an ID-card or mobile ID. As well as making sure the computer is safe to use with reliable anti-virus software installed you then need to make sure you have the latest digital signature software installed in order to recognise your digital ID.You then go through the voter application, identify yourself using your digital ID and confirm your vote.
The votes that are cast electronically are encrypted and are sent to a central server, which the voter can check using a smart device application. There are also “observers” that monitor the process to make sure everything is secure and protect against hacking. After the deadline is passed, all personal data is removed from the votes before they are counted ensuring that the votes are truly anonymous. In order to prevent people intimidating you to vote a certain way on your phone, Estonia give you the opportunity to change your vote many times until the deadline has passed and obviously there is still the option of voting in a polling station behind the booth.
This process seems to work for Estonia who have not had any serious security concerns or issues arise, and “i-voting” has been attributed to maintaining the voter turnout compared to other countries that are seeing continual declines. However, Estonia is in a unique position in part as it is a small country of only 1.3 million people and it is a relatively politically neutral country that has a much smaller risk in comparison to others, of political powers trying to interfere in its democratic system. “I-voting” also only works if you have trust in the system and the political governance of the country.
Though the jury is still out on “i-voting” in the UK the introduction of Blockchain technology might make it more likely to happen in the future.