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Let voters use mobiles, says Bercow

People should be able to use mobile phones and iPads to cast votes from their armchairs, John Bercow has said.

The Commons Speaker insisted it would not be an "earth-shattering change" if elections were conducted with such technology in future.

He also suggested that MPs could be allowed to vote electronically in Parliament, after centuries in which they have been manually counted through division lobbies.

Delivering a keynote speech at a Policy Exchange event in London, Mr Bercow highlighted the Commission on Digital Democracy he set up at the start of the year.

It is taking evidence and will publish findings early in 2015.

"I know some do believe that voting ought to have an element of difficulty," Mr Bercow said. "The argument is that a good citizen should have to make an effort to vote, picking up a postcard posted to them weeks before and dragging themselves down to an empty community hall or primary school on a wet Thursday, to put a cross on a tiny piece of paper.

"Sorry, but I am not convinced this is the pinnacle of 21st century democracy in action.

"Yes, of course there are well-rehearsed arguments regarding electronic and internet voting and the integrity of the ballot box must be absolutely protected.

"That said, in an era in which many people bank, search for a partner and conduct their most private of business online, treating their mobile phone or tablet as an extension of themselves, why should we not enable them to register to vote, cast their vote or express their views on the issues of the day using the same or similar tools, if they so wish?

"Indeed, would it really be such an earth-shattering change for voters to vote electronically in a polling station? Or at home, as they do so now with a postal vote?"

Mr Bercow said Parliament was adapting and responding to new technology even before its first telephone was installed in 1883.

"For generations tellers in the Division lobbies have taken a manual record as MPs file past in order for the Division list to be published in Hansard," he said.

"Without changing the architecture of the House or changing the tradition of Divisions, would it be so heretical to question whether votes in the future might be taken with the help of modern technology?

"This of course would be a matter for the House, but it does not seem unreasonable to me for us to consider if the key activity in the House, namely voting, might be improved.

"There are two arguments in favour of some sort of e-voting in the House; first, it would be more efficient, as demonstrated by our counterparts in the Scottish Parliament, the Welsh Assembly (where the votes are published within half an hour) and the Northern Irish Assembly; secondly, it would clearly demonstrate a commitment to practise what we preach, in terms of being a 'pro-tech' Parliament."


From Belfast Telegraph