[E-voting] Postal voting in the UK

Dr J Pelan J.Pelan at gatsby.ucl.ac.uk
Wed Oct 25 23:15:44 IST 2006

On Wed, 25 Oct 2006, Timothy Murphy wrote:

> In any case, in my view it would be a mistake for ICTE to start 
> attacking postal votes, which are essential in many cases if people are 
> not to be dis-enfranchized.

You have missed the point but I've changed the subject title and will try 
to attempt to address the misconceptions raised.

0) We are talking about postal voting and remote e-voting in the UK which 
   is not a concern for ICTE per se, but it is useful to discuss here from 
   time to time as some of the campaign issues may overlap.

1) The original proposition was simply that technical knowledge was NOT 
   required to understand or explain the risks associated with remote 
   e-voting, precisely because some of the risks are identical to those 
   already present with postal voting. As some of these postal voting 
   risks have been realised and subsequently publicised in the media, the 
   awareness of them has been raised in the minds of much of the UK 
   public (or at least those that care).

2) Highlighting potential and real problems with postal voting (either 
   directly or via analogy with remote e-voting) is not 'attacking' it.  
   Seeking to reduce fraud and other discrepancies is a perfectly 
   reasonable stance and is in keeping with society's norms.
   One should not be content to hope to detect fraud after the fact. Not 
   only can this not be guaranteed, it is costly and undermines the 
   electoral system. Safe-guards should be present from the outset for the 
   very same reason we lock our doors at night.

3) The key point you are forgetting is the notion of scale and risk. While 
   postal voting is inherently risky, the potential damage can be limited 
   by restricting its use to those that truly need it, like the rain 
   averse wheelchair users you cite.

   In England, postal voting is now available to everyone and so the 
   potential for fraud, and the consequences of it, goes up by orders of 
   magnitude. Similarly, it is proposed that remote e-voting be made 
   available to all and so the risks are of a similar type *and* scale. It 
   is perfectly reasonable to wish to reduce these by, once again, 
   restoring the postal votes to those that genuinely need them.
So, in summary, please do not equate any criticism of postal voting with a 
desire to disenfranchise anyone. That is quite the opposite of what is 
being sought.

John P.

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