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The Election Online
May 2005

There will be no e-voting in the coming election. This may strike you as odd; if we can do our banking, order our groceries and buy our shares online, we might expect to be able to use the internet to vote, too.

But it hasn't happened yet, despite several fairly serious attempts by the government to introduce it; for the time being we can't even join the electoral roll online, and it is very unlikely this will change soon.

Mind you, it's not just us. In Ireland, for example, they spent millions on an electronic ballot system last year, but are now writing off the whole lot. Serious doubts were raised over the accuracy of the software, and it was binned.

We had our own try - in the local elections in May 2002, some wards were set up to allow voting by email or text message, and it was moderately successful. However, the most common complaint was that it was actually more complex than voting the old fashioned way. You had to register by post, receive a password by post, and then find it again when it came to actually voting. In other words, more demanding than a simple postal vote.

And that's the key; until a way can be found that completely removes the use of paper, from registration to voting, then it just doesn't offer the sort of benefits that might make it attractive.

Even then, I would still have some Luddite doubts. If I put my vote in the ballot box myself I know it's done, and I trust the nice people in the polling station to get the box to the town hall, and their friends there to count the votes more or less accurately without outside interference. However, if I voted on a web site, I doubt I would have the same confidence, at least not yet. That time may come, but for the moment I will continue to enjoy the elegant simplicity of putting a cross on a ballot paper.

Not that the Internet isn't very useful during an election, doing what it does best - transmitting information. There are some excellent sites around to help us all make up our minds and pass the time; for example the BBC has put up a site at which is a guide to how each of the three main parties stand on 14 key issues. You can read the rules of our elections at or follow elections all over the world at

These rules give rise to a bit election fun relating to the websites run by our MP's. Once Parliament is dissolved for an election they lose the right to call themselves MP's, and the Electoral Commission has made it clear that this applies as much online as offline, so all personal websites have to be adjusted. The entertaining bit comes when you realise that loads of MPs use the letters "MP" in their web address - like, for example. In 2001, this forced several MP's to suspend their websites (most notably, and I do hope that we can expect the same sort of upheaval this time round.

You can find out lots about your MP and a link to his or her web site (if it's still there) at the excellent

But if you really want to know what is going to happen, I suggest that you follow the money and look at the spread betting sites to see the likely result. has links to lots of them. They won't be far out - and you can go to bed earlier on the night.