From the TUC

London’s mayoral candidates should take a lead on online voting in #TUbill

08 Jan 2016, By

Both of the front runners for the upcoming London Mayoral elections won their candidacies in votes that included voting via smartphones and computers. Conservative candidate Zac Goldsmith’s ballot was entirely conducted online, with his Labour rival Sadiq Khan winning a combined postal/online ballot of party members.

We think this means they should be willing to support others in making use of these tools in improving democratic choices – be they leadership ballots or strike votes. We like the idea of online ballots. They’re proven to help get turnout in elections up, which is why more and more organisations are moving towards using them.

As trade unions, we want to move with the times and use the best tools available to give as many workers as possible a say – enabling more people to be heard is fundamental to why unions exist. But we’re the only groups specifically banned in legislation from using anything other than out-dated postal ballots.

The government’s Trade Union Bill currently before Parliament is revising the legislation that blocks online voting for unions, so it would be a perfect opportunity to close this loophole. As it stands though, the Bill will just impose new turnout thresholds for votes to be valid (for more on why that’s silly, read this), but nothing to help unions meet those thresholds in an appropriate way – either through secure online voting or independently run workplace ballots.

When political parties are choosing to realise the advantages of online voting technology, it’s undemocratic and hypocritical for them to then seek to continue a specific ban on unions using it too, and to justify it with vague security concerns that they didn’t consider significant enough when it came to their own votes. What’s secure for the goose is surely secure for the gander.

We’re calling on Zac Goldsmith and Sadiq Khan to take a public lead in seeking changes to Bill for online voting.

Zac Goldsmith voted in favour of the overall Trade Union Bill, when MPs considered it in the Commons. But as it has a way to go yet in Parliament, there’s ample scope to amend some of its worst proposals. Support for online balloting from Zac would go a long way to ensuring the confidence of Conservative Peers to vote for amendments to the restrictive balloting clauses. It would be popular with their own voters, 47% of whom backed the idea in our recent poll, to just 27% against.

If you agree, and particularly if you’re someone who’ll be voting in the London elections, can you please help us get the message through to them by sending them both a tweet?

As Frances O’Grady says:

“Candidates in the London mayoral election should stick up for the democratic rights of workers in the capital by opposing the Trade Union Bill. London needs political leaders who will engage positively with working people and their representatives, not make their lives harder.”

Tweet Zac and Sadiq now

UPDATE 9 Jan: Thanks Sadiq! He’s confirmed he’ll back online balloting, acknowledging ballots like his own make an irrefutable case for letting unions use the technology too:

No reply from Zac just yet. Can you please help us ask him?