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Cabinet Office written question – answered on 12th July 2017.

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Photo of Lord Knight of Weymouth Lord Knight of Weymouth Labour

Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the recommendations in the WebRoots Democracy report, Inclusive Voting: Improving access to elections with digital democracy, published on 5 June; and, in particular, what assessment they have made of (1) the call for pilots of an online voting option in elections, and (2) the conclusion that it is highly questionable whether voters with vision impairments and other disabilities have access to the right to cast a secret and independent vote.

Photo of Lord Young of Cookham Lord Young of Cookham Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip), Lords Spokesperson (Cabinet Office)

The Government notes the recommendations in WebRoots Democracy report. The Government is committed to building a modern democracy that works for everyone.

All voters have the right to vote independently and in secret. To assist blind and visually impaired voters, Returning Officers must ensure each polling station is equipped with a tactile voting device which fixes over the ballot paper and allows the voter to mark the ballot paper independently, and in secret, after a member of polling station staff has read out the list of candidates on the ballot paper to them. An enlarged version of the ballot paper is also displayed in each polling station and a large handheld copy provided on request to assist visually impaired voters. Disabled electors may also take a companion into the polling station with them for assistance, or make use of postal voting or appoint a proxy to vote on their behalf, in the same manner as other electors.

The introduction of electronic voting (‘e-Voting’) would raise a number of issues which would need to be considered carefully. The selection of elected representatives for Parliament is regarded as requiring the highest possible level of integrity and, at present, there are concerns that e-Voting, by any means, is not seen by many to be suitably rigorous and secure, and could be vulnerable to attack or fraud. To provide a system over which there are doubts held by part of the electorate would not be appropriate.

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