“So long as I do not firmly and irrevocably possess the right to vote I do not possess myself. I cannot make up my mind — it is made up for me. I cannot live as a democratic citizen, observing the laws I have helped to enact — I can only submit to the edict of others.” Martin Luther King jnr (1957)
This is the centenary of women (some women) obtaining the right to vote in UK General Elections. The first public meetings held in Orkney on the question of woman’s suffrage were in 1871. It took decades of campaigning, marches, petitions and in some cases civil disobedience before that right was recognised – even if it was only partial.
The Great Procession and Women’s Demonstration 1909
on Princes Street, Edinburgh
It was also in 1918 that all men over the age of 21 were able to vote.Up until then the franchise was so restricted that thousands of those who died or were horrifically injured in The Great War (1914-1918) had no say in the democratic process.
Today we have an increasing problem with people not using this hard won right. Participation in votes on programmes like ‘Strictly’ or ‘X Factor’ are massive and many also respond willingly to social media polls on everything from climate change to ‘do you remember Spangles?’ .
The lowest turnout figures for Scotland are in local elections. In Orkney,as elsewhere, people have been angry at cuts to local services – the things that matter most to them, the closest to home – are being affected by the decisions of councillors. And yet so many people – when they had the chance to choose their councillors – did not take that option. They remained at home.
The exception to this is people who register their vote by post. Postal voting is how most people vote in the islands of Orkney (except Mainland) and the turnout is good. In the North Isles turnout is the highest at 58.7% compared to Kirkwall West/Orphir at 42.3%. Or more worryingly, Stromness/South Isles where there were so few candidates that no election was held and those standing were all elected.
It’s a strange thing when the most powerful tool any individual has to affect change is to mark with a cross (or number) a bit of paper and so many are choosing not to do this. But they will go online, or text to vote in a tv show or social media poll.
Over this last year Scotland has seen a range of marches taking place to support all manner of causes.
In Orkney too we have seen protests about cuts to local services, applications for wind farms and Trump.
In mainland Scotland a small group of people even set off on a 500 mile walk from Skye to Edinburgh to join up with the ‘All Under One Banner’ march involving over 100,000 people.
Their effort was highlighted in the Scottish Parliament by MSP Jenny Gilruth, SNP.
A spokesperson for the 500 miles walkers said:
“On 15th September 2018, seven individuals took to the 500 mile start line at Sligachan, on The Isle of Skye.
“21 days later, the challenge has concluded. The journey started with extremely limited resources, and very quickly shifted into voluntary community contributions, across the span of Scotland. The walkers experienced kindness and generosity from town to town, on a scale that was unexpected at outset.”
Walker Laura Marshall said:
“It has been a profoundly humbling experience, to be on the receiving end of community support which is so unprecedented for all involved, the convergence of so many factors have created opportunities to consider so many positive future potentials for Scotland’s people.”
The spokesperson for the 500 miles walkers confirmed “that Scotland’s blockchain academics have access for the funding of a future democracy platform. An inaugural national Clearpollblockchain poll was also confirmed, effective October 23rd – 30th. “
What is Blockchain Polling?
Blockchain voting is an online system of registering your vote and has been used in some places in a limited way.
West Virginia became the first US state to use it in May of this year. It allowed those serving overseas to be able to participate in the election without using postal or proxy voting :
“This pilot project is the first of its kind in the United States. The mobile voting application uses blockchain technology to provide a secure voting process. The blockchain-based mobile voting application is available only to West Virginia registered voters who are active-duty members of the military and their eligible dependents”
“Blockchain is a distributed ledger technology that empowers anyone with an internet
connection to transfer anything of value — anywhere, anytime, with unmatched security
and integrity. Because blockchain is a distributed ledger of transactions, military mobile
votes become immutable and tamper-proof once recorded.
Benefits of blockchain-based voting solutions include:
• Secure and accurate
• Elimination of human error
• Anonymize votes
• Faster results
• Increased trust in institutions
Internet voting has been an option in Estonia since 2005 when only 2% of the electorate chose this method. It has been used in 9 elections since then, local, parliamentary and in the European election of 2014 when 31% voted by internet. In Estonia you can change your vote from the 10th to the 4th day of polling. It is only the final vote that is counted.
It is a problem with postal voting that most fill in their ballot paper as soon as it pops through the door and then once it is posted there is no opportunity to change it. If it is done early on in an election campaign and circumstances change it means you may vote for something or a person who you would rather not have.
It will be interesting to see if Scotland goes for a system of internet voting. Estonia’s population is only 1.3 million and in their General election of 2015 had an electorate of 899,793. Scotland has a population of 5.2 million with the number registered to vote in Scottish and local elections being 4.12 million. There is a different franchise for UK General Elections so it comes out at 3.95 million. National Records of Scotland
The figures are for those registered to vote. Some people choose not to register. There has been an increase in those who do register but is not yet up to the number who registered for the first time in 2014 for the Scottish Independence Referendum.
Blockchain / e-voting also requires strong internet connections – and that is still an issue for many parts of Scotland. If millions were casting votes would the slowness of the system in many areas be able to cope? Whatever method is used what is important is that the ability to vote is the single most effective means the individual has to make a difference to decision making by those who seek to govern.
“Voting is the foundation stone for political action.” Martin Luther King jnr
Reporter: Fiona Grahame