Modernising British Democracy is ‘work in progress’ – Tyler

Speaking to a Centre for Parliamentary Studies seminar this week, Liberal Democrat Peer, Lord Tyler, said modernising British democracy was a ‘work in progress’.  The UK had much to learn, he said, from other countries represented on an international training programme for Electoral Commissions.

Lord Tyler told the delegates, who came from Afghanistan, Canada, Kenya, Armenia, Guyana, and the UK, that “peculiarly among features of modern life in the UK, the process of voting –and of having your vote counted – is fundamentally the same today as it was when the franchise was extended to all working men in 1832”.

The Liberal Democrat Peer laid down a challenge to the new Coalition government to succeed where Labour had failed in taking decisions which would modernise the electoral process and improve access for voters.  Promoting ideas like weekend voting, and remote voting, he said, “In a society where you can access your bank from any computer in the world, and have your shopping delivered to your door in a two-hour timeslot of your choosing, we still find it impossible [in Britain] to let you vote at the polling station nearest to where you are on election day, because your name is on one paper register in one place.  If you aren’t there, you can’t take part.”

Lord Tyler urged the Government to be bold in speeding up Individual Electoral Registration, to ensure the integrity of polls which are taking place between now and the next General Election to local Councils, for Mayors and for new elected police commissioners.  He added that when it was piloted, “E-voting got a bad reputation in the UK because it wasn’t considered that the security systems were sufficiently robust to prevent fraud.  The trouble is that that reflects the situation with traditional voting.  If you live in my area and know my address, you can already go along to my polling station and claim to be me.  You’d get my vote and no would be any the wiser.”

Commenting after the seminar, Lord Tyler said,

“It’s quite humbling to see the way in which developing democracies inspire their citizens to queue for hours, in often dangerous circumstances, to cast their votes, while our own dysfunctional systems put in place quite unnecessary barriers to people doing so.

“And newer democracies have got so much more sorted the matter of a secure register.  Delegates I spoke to from Guyana said it was unthinkable that anyone there could secure a ballot paper without a foolproof check of identity.

“In Britain, electoral fraud is child’s play for anyone who wants to try.  Our Coalition Government must now act.”

ENDS

Notes to Editors:

  1. The Coalition Government is committed to speeding up Individual Electoral Registration to improve the integrity of the register
  2. Paul Tyler’s full speech is available at http://www.paultyler.libdems.org/speech-to-cps-seminar

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