Guernsey Press

‘Now is not the time for electronic voting’

NOW is not the time to spend money on a new electronic voting system, a States’ Assembly & Constitution committee member has said, even though he likes the new technology proposed.

States’ Assembly and Constitution Committee member Deputy Liam McKenna is a fan of the electronic voting technology, but will vote against its introduction as he does not believe now is the right time to spend the money. (Picture by Sophie Rabey, 30652538)

The idea has been put forward by Sacc for debate by the States next week.

Liam McKenna said that the proposed system was brilliant, but he was now opposed to its introduction, given an rising prices and constrained public finances.

He raised his concerns at this week’s Sacc meeting, where the cost of the electronic voting system was given as £109,000 over three years.

‘When we first had the demonstration, I thought it was brilliant. I think it’s very clever,’ he said.

‘But life has been changing very rapidly with rising costs – food, petrol, utilities.

‘Is it a brilliant piece of electronic engineering? Yes, we could do with it. But I don’t think this is the time,’ said Deputy McKenna, who confirmed he would be voting against it when it came before the States next week.

‘If we are staring at the abyss where we are looking at where every penny counts, whether we say yes or no or vote electronically, we could save £109,000 in three years. I’m saying it’s a saving.’

Committee member Deputy John Gollop said he understood concerns about costs, but said he had always supported electronic voting.

It meant that Sacc’s president Carl Meerveld had to give the ‘best possible case’ in favour of electronic voting.

Deputy Meerveld said electronic voting would improve transparency and accountability, increasing public engagement and help voters select deputies – by providing statistical information – at future elections.

‘It would also engage the next generation with their electronic devices and the way they wanted to get their information and interact with the government,' he said.

He also suggested finding a saving to pay for it. ‘It’s a machinery of government issue, I know, but I will be recommending in the machinery of government working group that we reduce the number of deputies by one. Simply because it seems insane to me to have a consensus government with an even number of deputies.’

Deputy Meerveld also said that it was a not a £109,000 electronic voting system – that was the cost of running it as well as setting it up and associated requirements, such as security.

Deputy Simon Fairclough agreed that electronic voting could help get the younger generation interested and involved in politics.

He accepted that electronic voting could improve transparency – particularly at elections, with people able to look back on how politicians voted on key issues.

He also said that the rest of Sacc had to focus on convincing other deputies that now was the time to introduce electronic voting, given Deputy McKenna’s change of heart.

Sacc vice-president Deputy Lester Queripel said that electronic voting would improve transparency and openness on voting records, as well as save time and staff resources in processing recorded votes.