Remote voting in the UK House of Lords

On June 10, 2020 the UK House of Lords posted Online voting to be introduced in House of Lords for the first time.

NOTE: This is a separate system from the UK House of Commons.  For information about that system see instead Remote voting in the UK House of Commons – Remote Divisions become reality.

House of Lords

There isn’t much technical detail in the post, it just says

Members of the House of Lords will soon be able to vote remotely for the first time when the House of Lords launches an online voting system. Members will be able to vote on a smartphone, laptop or other device.

The system is being developed by the UK Parliamentary Digital Service.

Hopefully a technical blog post will be available once it launches.

The House of Lords indicates that the first remote voting may take place as soon as June 15, 2020.

UPDATE 2020-06-15: The House of Lords is indeed voting remotely on June 15, 2020.

Online voting in #HouseofLords starts today.
Twitter – @UKHouseofLords


Parlimentary Voting vs General Election Voting

As a reminder, Parliamentary votes are different from votes in a general election in at least three major ways:

  1. Votes can be coerced (in fact the role of the Whip is basically to enforce party direction on how to vote)
  2. Votes are not anonymous
  3. Votes are not secret

That being said, there are still lots of considerations for remote voting and technology voting, including concerns about the chain-of-custody, as multiple systems are most likely involved with the transmission and counting of the vote, concerns about auditability and concerns about security.

It’s because Parliamentary votes are public that it is possible to implement a remote voting system for the House of Lords.

Conversely, the anonymous secret ballot in a general election cannot be implemented using remote voting (online voting).  For a very clear explanation of the issues with online voting in the context of general elections, see Eric Geller’s Politico article Some [US] states have embraced online voting. It’s a huge risk.  For a more in-depth academic analysis, see the 2018 consensus report of the US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM): Securing the Vote.