Electronic Balloting and the Trade Union Bill

Thank you for contacting me about electronic balloting and the Trade Union Bill.

I recognise that online ballots could be a useful tool to bring about change in the voting process. However, it is important to ensure that there is the utmost confidence in ballot processes. Both the Speaker's Commission on Digital Democracy and the Open Rights Group have summed up their concerns over the security and difficulties of achieving this with electronic balloting.

A key challenge is how to be sufficiently confident about both e-security and the confidentiality of the votes. The Electoral Reform Services has acknowledged the challenges of the secrecy of the vote. For instance, it is potentially easier to gain access to huge quantities of electronic votes, which would be much harder to do with postal votes. There are also further issues around security and the significant risk of intimidation in the workplace, possible fraud by trade union officials and the risks of interception of PIN numbers/passwords.

Other countries have also struggled to implement online voting successfully and sustainably. For instance, countries such as Finland, the USA, the Netherlands and Spain, as well as here in the UK, have either piloted or fully adopted electronic voting and then decided to discontinue its use.

Ultimately, there remains no practical solutions to any of these highly complex problems and existing systems remain unacceptably flawed. This is why, at present, I do not believe that the Government could authorise its use in something as important as a strike ballot.

Rest assured, I will continue to follow the case for the electronic balloting closely. The Government has agreed to commission an independent review to consider its case again and to ensure that the latest technology has been assessed.

Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.