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Online voting... how do we achieve this?

0 votes
I am a councillor in a small town council (16 of us) looking after around 5,000 residents. We are all locked down due to this current COVID-19 crisis, however we have some really important decisions which we have to make and the only way that we can vote is online. There is nothing in our standing orders which allows for this. We can discuss all items on the agenda via secure email, but when it comes to voting, we have no access to any software which ensures that each councillor has one and only one vote and we have no facilities in place to make amendments to agenda items. .... for us this is a  a problem. Are any of you in a similar situation and do any of you have a solution to this?
asked by (210 points)

1 Answer

+1 vote
I think we're all in the same boat. Standing orders don't permit this, as the legal framework doesn't exist to permit it. The NALC is lobbying government to introduce temporary powers, but that has not happened yet.

Bearing in mind the situation we're in, nobody is likely to take action against any local council that has adopted measures outside the permitted framework, as long as the action was essential within a particular timeframe. For example, a decision to install a park bench could be delayed until next year if necessary, whereas the awarding of a contract for urgent works might need to proceed. My advice is to look very carefully at the matters under consideration and ask why they are being addressed now.

The sharing of opinions prior to voting is an important part of the democratic process, so you should take whatever steps you can to hear each member's views. This can be done by email. Amendments could be treated in the same way. In other words, conduct your meeting as you would at any other time, but rather than verbally, use the keyboard. At the end of the process, everybody should email the Clerk with a clear indication of their vote, for or against. I would print and retain those final messages as evidence of the process.

As an alternative, you could hold a virtual meeting using video conferencing software such as Zoom, however this requires every member of the council to have a device with a forward-facing camera and microphone and to download and install the software. In my councils, members lack the IT capability to achieve this.
answered by (29k points)
That seems like sound advice.... thank you.
At Borough level we have set up on Microsoft Team which allows recording, streaming and much much more it’s amazing
If we can get clearance for online voting then as long as a meeting is quorate that would be fine

To be frank in this day and age how can anyone think they can serve their community if they aren’t on line ?
In my rural communities, Parish Councils and PCC's are a bit like the Chinese Communist Party in that you have to be over 75 to join!  About a third of my councillors have no form of electronic communication and several of those who potentially could use e-mail have opted to receive all communications on paper instead. Broadly speaking, this is representative of the communities they serve, as computer and smartphone ownership is well below national average, as are basic literacy and numeracy. We have District Councillors who face challenges with reading and writing.

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