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Tuesday, 12 February 2008

Electronic Voting

These pictures were taken during the first ever electronic vote taken at General Synod.

OK, so how does it work?

We had to have instructions on the first day of Synod, during the Business Committee report. The chair of the Business Committee took us through some spoof motions to try out the new gadgetry.

Each Synod member has a voting handset; and a personal ‘chip’ card. This unique combination identifies each individual voter - but there is still one final stage before votes can be made - a ‘pin’ number, flashed briefly on a screen, needs to be entered into the handset before any vote can be made. This involves much audible ‘clicking’ from synod members around they chamber. (The second photo above shows the screen - just - with the very first random pin number, 1882, in the Clergy Terms of Service/Common Tenure debate.)

A practise vote was set up on Monday - a ‘vote of the whole house’ that ‘This synod ask the Business Committee to acknowledge Valentine's Day was passed by a significant majority of the whole Synod.

However a following motion, a ‘vote by houses’, that ‘Valentine's Day be celebrated by each bishop buying chocolates for their diocesan representatives at Synod’, was passed by both of the lower houses, but the House of Bishops voted it down. Because ‘votes by houses’ require a majority in each house to be passed, it meant that bishops were let off the hook from buying their diocesan representatives chocolate for Valentine's Day. But, woe betide any bishops who do not…!

These voting handsets also have another useful function. During long debates (that may not grab the interest of all members) some synod representatives nip off to visit the loo, or get a cup of coffee. This can mean a drop in the number of members in the chamber. Yet there needs to be a quorum of members, in each house, for Synod’s business to be conducted. Sometimes a member will ask, as a Point of Order, whether we are quorate in all houses; and then a count needs to be taken. This used to be a laborious process. With the voting handsets, it is instantly clear precisely how many from each house are present in the chamber. (And presumably, who is not…!)

Alastair GS101

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