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Published on June 16th, 2014 | by Taji Rafferty
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Democracy is E-sy

It is a matter of general knowledge that Democracy started in Greece, and a known fact that the term we use today derives from the Greek words demos “People” and kratos “Power”. Around 500 BC, elections were decided through the use of small bronze ballots, one hollow and one solid, each representing the two candidates. One would be placed into a bronze jar, signifying a ‘Yes’ vote, and the other into a wooden jar, signifying ‘No’ (1).

Those were much simpler times, and all those who were eligible to vote usually did so because it was considered a civic duty. However, it was also the case that you could only vote if you were free, male, propertied, and born in Athens by two Athenian parents. Thus, only around 50% of the overall population turned up to vote and, other than the bronze coins and wooden jars, not much has changed. In the recent European elections only 34% of eligible voters took part (2).

There are often two central, contradicting, viewpoints on the reasons for this result. On one side politicians reproach voters for being apathetic and, on the other, voters reproach politicians for being just plain pathetic. All those left over tend to be faint-hearted sceptics who haven’t the self-confidence to commit to one perspective and thus amass a series of fluctuating viewpoints.

Well, now a solution has come along which could mark a significant change in the democratic system – E-Voting – and a debate has arisen, as to whether it is truly democratic or not.

Many have already chosen sides, Left and Right…whereas I have taken the radically agnostic, fervently non-committal route, deciding to pledge myself to nothing, before having amassed a series of fluctuating viewpoints, which will be analysed carefully forthwith, in order to save my faint-heart from any major surprises.

Firstly, E-Voting is short for Electronic voting, and it refers to the option of using electronic means to vote in elections and referendums. Currently in the UK the most widely practised method of voting is the ballot paper, for which the bronze ballot is a distant ancestor. Voting is also available by post, for the elderly, disabled, or temporarily enfeebled (hospitalised/ pregnant). E-Voting could mean that those who are eligible can use their smartphones or tablets to cast votes online, thus saving people time, energy, and stamps.

Supporters of the method point out the benefits for the enfeebled, and mark it as a development of the vote-by-post system. Critics suggest that a large majority of voters are mainly enfeebled by their own indifference to anything pertaining to the political sphere, and that E-voting simply means giving lazy votes to lazy people. In a speech to the Policy Exchange think tank, a speaker said: “A good citizen should have to make an effort to vote” even if it means “dragging themselves down to an empty community hall or primary school on a wet Thursday” (3).

Those standing on the middle ground may find themselves inclined to repeat the old aphorism ‘It’s not the winning but the taking part that counts.’ After all, there will always be eligible voters who refuse to partake in the electoral process, regardless of how easy it is. So, whether or not it can be agreed that E-voting means laze-E-voting, it must be a good thing for a larger majority of the population to participate. A greater degree of participation fundamentally leads to a more legitimate government.

Please note that all blog posts do not represent the views of Catch21 but only of the individual writers. We also aim to be factually accurate and balanced across all content taken as a whole.

1 (Aeschylos, Eumenides 740-743, translated by Richard Lattimore)

2 http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-27783329

3 http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-27783329

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