Jonathan Djanogly MP (Conservative) MP for Huntingdon. Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (HM Courts Service and Legal Aid), Justice. First entered Parliament in 2001. He has a degree in law and politics. Before becoming an MP he was a partner in a commercial law firm and also he set up a mail order retail business.
Jonathan Djanogly said the following at the Conservative Party conference, Open Rights Group fringe meeting, should we trust electronic elections 4 October 2007
- Can I firstly congratulate the Open Rights Group for holding this meeting, I think it makes an important contribution to a very important democratic principle. I would also say that when I came along to the launch that you just mentioned, of your report of the May 07 elections, looking through it and seeing the presentation was like receiving a jolt of electricity. It made me go away and think very carefully about the issues that we are discussing this evening, so congratulations for that as well.
- From a constitutional perspective the integrity of our electoral system is essential to give legitimacy to any parliament. It governs the public's one opportunity to dictate how and by whom the country should be run. If the public has failing confidence in the electrical system, the entire democratic system is then called into question. I say here today that the integrity of our electoral system is not only in question, I think it is in great danger. There are numerous examples of the malaise that has hit our electoral system: fraud, administrative incompetence, lack of registration, low turn out, postal vote inadequacies, wildly unequal constituency sizes, and over representation of our urban areas. Clearly something must be done. Yet, despite all of these problems facing our electoral system, the government continues to prioritise turnout, not least through its fallacious belief that this will improve if it extends the means by which people can vote.
- The May 07 election saw five local authorities, Rushmoor, Shefield, Shrewsbury, South Bucks and Swindon, pilot a range of e-voting solutions, including remote internet voting, telephone voting and the provision of electronic polling stations enabling a "vote anywhere" environment on polling day. The use of remote e-voting channels required, as an additional security measure, pre-registration by electors and in three of the four pilot schemes this seems to have contributed to significantly lower proportion of electors opting for e-voting channels compared to the 2003 pilots.
- The Electoral Commission reported that there remained issues with the security and transparency of the solutions and the capacity of the local authorities to maintain control over the elections. The Commission recommend, as we have just heard, that no further e-voting was undertaken until four things happen. A comprehensive electoral modernisation strategy, outlining how transparency, public trust and cost effectiveness can be achieved. Secondly, a central process to ensure that sufficiently secure and transparent e-voting solutions, that have been tested and proved, can be selected by local authorities. Thirdly, that sufficient time, allocated for planning e-voting pilots, is put in place; that is a very important issue. And finally, the call that we have just heard, for individual voter registration; which we have been calling for, by the way, for the last five years. The Commission cannot support any further e-voting, they say, in the absence of a framework incorporating these recommendation. We agree with all of that as absolute minimum.
- The government wants to increase the ease and convenience of voting, aiming to improve turnout and they have turned to technology to archieve this objective. But in practice despite the hype, remote electronic voting has not delivered any significant increase in turn out. In 2003 the Electoral Commission's evaluation highlighted that e-voting had little beneficial effect on turnout. The change was apparently less than two percent, despite the schemes costing some twenty million pounds, furthermore its quite arguable that publicity spent on advertising the use of e-voting, so raising awareness of the election was probably the cause of the slight chance in turnout. The Electoral Commission noted in it's report on the pilot schemes on 2007, that the majority of those who voted electronically are lightly to have voted anyway via another channel. As the foundation for information policy research has remarked, it's always a bad idea to look for technical fixes to social problems. Election turnout would be increased if citizens were convinced that their vote would make a difference. Simply computerising the current system is unlikely to archieve this. In other words whatever system you put in place, it is for us, the politicians, to give people a good reason to vote and not to put your faith simply in electronics.
- The government's objective to increasing the number of people voting is in itself, of course, admirable but they have not provided the parallel resources needed to minimise fraud. Their modernisation program has been ill thought through and is resulting in a collapse of public confidence. It is certainly our position, that the government needs properly to secure the integrity of Britain's electoral system before it attempts to implement a program of modernisation of the voting system. In the 2007 pilot schemes the Electoral Commission noted that the level of security assurance was below that associated with other government IT projects and best practice in security governance was not followed. While this in isolation does not necessarily mean that there were security weaknesses, it does increase the risk significantly. No significant security incidents were reported during 2007 but given the short time scales, the limited technical documentation for the systems and the lack of comprehensive acceptance testing this was fortuitous. The level of risk of a security incident was much higher than it should ever have been. Remote electronic voting is much more insecure than postal voting. In a real election, pin numbers must still be sent en masse, by post, to voters and there is no way of confidently identifying that an electronic vote is being cast by the right elector. This lack of an adequate paper audit trail is extremely worrying given the risk of fraud already exposed in postal voting, especially in houses of multiple occupation and urban areas with a mobile population. And by the way if you have any further doubts you really should read the excellent report of the Open Rights Group. Are you online? You are aren't you. The report's on line. Anyone interested in this area should read your report.
- The key to a healthy democracy does not lie in the gimmicky use of text or web votes. The priority for the government must be to strengthen the integrity of our electoral system and restore confidence in that system. At best, given the existing technology, widespread remote electronic voting is a distraction, at worst it has the potential to expand the scope of fraud. Rather than ditching our Victorian electoral system for a pop idle model, we should focus on preventing the electoral practices of the rotten Burroughs of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries becoming the hallmark of the twenty-first century. The integrity of an electoral system is essential to the credibility of the democratic system it serves. The British electoral system is, I believe, in danger of loosing its credibility, which we need to appreciate could ultimately threaten the legitimacy of our actions and decisions made in parliament. The government sees turn out increase as an end in itself. They are simply wrong. With a discredited system, falling turnout and voter confidence will turn into collapses. There may be a future role for e-voting but we are not ready for it yet.
Attended the launch of the Open Rights Group report on e-voting in the May 2007 elections.
House of Commons debate Electoral System 26 February 2007
- Unbelievably, even now, the issue dominating Department for Constitutional Affairs press releases is not the need to crack down on electoral fraud but the extension of all-postal voting, and the trialling of internet and telephone voting. Earlier, the Under-Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs called that a sensible effect, but we say that if we do not have the appropriate controls, such measures would, if anything, increase the incidence of fraud. As the Foundation for Information Policy Research remarked,
- "It's always a bad idea to look for technical fixes to social problems."
- All the signs show that the Government have lost their way, and have lost all sight of the priority issue.
Westminster Hall debate Electoral Administration Bill 8 November 2005 Jonathan Djanogly said
- "A survey conducted by MORI earlier this year found that 54 per cent. of the public think that postal voting has made it easier to commit electoral fraud. An even higher percentage thought that electronic voting would increase fraud: 74 per cent. thought that that would be the case with voting by text message and 55 per cent. with voting by website. What is needed is genuine reform that will re-establish the integrity of the electoral system. What is also needed is a Bill that will crack down on the fraud that is detracting from the electorate's faith in our democracy. What we have, however, is a Bill that promises a lot, but does not deliver as much as it promises."
House of Commons debate Electoral Integrity 22 June 2005
- As postal voting—and, even more dangerously, e-voting—does not have the supervision of polling stations, we believe that safeguards are essential to ensure that personation does not occur and that the postal voting system recovers its integrity. The hon. Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe (Mr. Betts) made that point strongly.
Written question Absent Voting 28 March 2007
- To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs how her Department intends to ensure appropriate checks in the monitoring of the trials into (a) internet and (b) telephone voting to prevent electoral malpractice and fraud.
Written question Electoral Pilots 6 December 2001
- To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions whether the e-voting equipment to be procured by his Department for the electoral pilots in the May 2002 local elections will include an (a) screen magnification software, (b) screen reader software, (c) Braille displays and (d) other adaptive technology for visually impaired people.
Westminster Hall debates Internet (Extreme Images) 18 May 2004 Jonathan Djanogly said
- "...pornography on the internet as a whole is in need of regulation..."
- "...Filters can be put in to computers, there must be more restrictions on unsolicited commercial e-mails and spam, and search engines could be restricted so as not to trigger such obscene sites..."
In the same debate he also said Internet (Extreme Images) 18 May 2004
- "...Secondly, a law could be introduced to make the person or organisation registering or paying for the website, wherever it was hosted, responsible for what was published on it, with the burden of proof being on the person or the organisation to show that they were not responsible for the contents of the website..."
- There are other instances where the necessity of an arrest may become devoid of meaning unless the codes give greater practical guidance. Paragraph 2.9 (e)(ii) refers to an arrest justified by an operational need to take fingerprints and other samples. The desire to compile a database of information must not in itself be used as a basis to justify the necessity of an arrest. It must be made clear that the samples are directly necessary to the actual investigation: for example, because a sample of material was located that may yield DNA.
Signed Early Day Motion 845 Freedom of Information 06 Febuary 2007
- That this House expresses concern that the proposed new fees regulations under the Freedom of Information Act would allow authorities to refuse on cost grounds a high proportion of requests which they are currently required to answer; notes that the Government's consultation document recognises that this will have a greater impact on journalists, hon. Members, campaign groups and researchers than on private individuals; considers that such changes would undermine the Act's contribution to increased discussion of public affairs, accountability and trust in the work of public authorities; and calls on the Government not to proceed with the proposals.
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