Hot-wiring the electorate

Vote by phone, text-message, internet or urinal...but will it make electing your local councillor more interesting?

Ray Crowley

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Topics Politics

Local elections are coming. I know this because I have seen the sum total of three posters displayed in my neighbourhood.

I am not going to vote – and nor are the majority of the population. This is slightly unfortunate for the designers of alternative voting methods being tested in 30 boroughs across the country. Everything from extended voting hours to balloting via digital TV and the internet, to voting by touch-tone telephone and text-message are being tried in an attempt to halt the slump in turnout (1).

Aside from the lack of subjects to test them out on, I can see a few other problems with these new voting methods. For a start, aren’t local elections boring enough without:

‘Welcome to the touch-tone voting telephone exchange. This is a recorded message. We’re sorry, touch-tone votes may only be cast from touch-tone telephones. Please press the star key twice after the tone to confirm you are using a touch-tone phone. You are now ready to vote. Please press one, two or three for the Labour, Conservative or Liberal Democrat candidates respectively, press the hash key for the Green Party candidate, press 666 for the BNP candidate (but do remember what happened in France), press zero for other obscure parties and 999 to return to the beginning of this message.’

What about text-message voting? ‘While the new systems might attract younger voters, there are concerns that older electors – the mainstay of local polls – might be put off’, says the Evening Standard (2). No kidding. It is a well-known fact that the older you become the less adept you are at using a mobile. Many a vote may be mistakenly cast as granny attempts to turn on EastEnders and accidentally votes 700 times for the BNP before she works out why the telly isn’t coming on.

And I don’t know who thought of voting online. We all know about the types of people that lurk around on the internet – do we really want a bunch of paedophiles deciding who our local councillors will be? They’ve also left out polling stations in men’s urinals. Now, that would pull in votes – ‘please pee on the face of the candidate you wish to elect’.

Look, if there was a candidate or party exciting enough to vote for, I’d run the London Marathon to poll if necessary. I don’t opt out because I can’t be bothered – it’s just that, at the moment, there is nothing thrilling about electing my local councillor.

The one thing that does excite me about elections is the opportunity to wind up my parents. This time, I have changed my tack. Instead of explaining I have decided not to vote because I have thought about it but I am not impressed or inspired by any of the candidates, I decided on:

Ray: ‘If they have a polling booth in the pub I might vote. I can’t really be bothered and I don’t like any of the candidates, but if they had one in the pub I might just do it for the sake of it, because I ought to. Especially if you got free crisps.’

Ray’s Dad: ‘But if you just can’t be bothered, and don’t like any of them, and you just do it for free crisps, your vote isn’t really worth anything, is it? Don’t be so stupid. You shouldn’t be voting if that’s your attitude.’

Ray: ‘Okay, I won’t.’

Result.

Read on:

No votes for e-democracy, by Mark Birbeck

Connecting to what?, by Sandy Starr

Nice technology – where’s the politics?, by Sandy Starr

(1) Voting goes hi-tech, Patrick Hennessy, London Evening Standard, 24 April 2002

(2) Voting goes hi-tech, Patrick Hennessy, London Evening Standard, 24 April 2002

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Topics Politics

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