Electronic voting in for MPs in Parliament 'could improve accuracy of how votes are recorded', researchers say

The current voting tradition has been criticised as arcane and time-consuming

Introducing a system of electronic voting for MPs in Parliament “could improve the accuracy” of how votes are recorded, House of Commons researchers have said.

According to a report from the House of Commons Library, “preparatory studies” of a proposed new system in which MPs would use their electronic security passes to vote also found that the new approach would save time.

But any new system would most likely still involve the centuries-old tradition of MPs passing through different lobbies to register their vote, because it gives parliamentarians “time to talk to senior colleagues”, the report said.

Parliament has come under renewed pressure to modernise in recent months, with calls from some of the SNP’s 56 new MPs to switch to a system of electronic voting similar to that used by the Scottish Parliament.

Currently, MPs vote by walking through either an ‘Aye’ or a ‘No’ lobby, where their names are marked off by Parliamentary clerks, with two MPs acting as Tellers to count the number of MPs voting.

The tradition has been criticised as arcane and time-consuming. It also gives an MP who walks into the wrong lobby no opportunity to change his or her vote – though a vote in error can be cancelled.

In one minor concession to the 21st century, the report confirms that trials of using tablet devices rather than pen and paper to mark off MPs’ names have been successful and that the reform is expected to be rolled out fully in the current session of Parliament.

However, a more fundamental change like switching to security pass voting would require House of Commons approval, and the preparatory studies did identify some risks, such as MPs using the pass of another MP to vote, and “potential technology failures”.

Other voting systems for MPs proposed over the years have included the use of fingerprint scanners and infrared handsets.

Deputy Leader of the House of Commons Thérèse Coffey said last month she was not aware of any current proposals to introduce swipe cards.

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