The ballot papers which were due to be delivered to Tory members have been paused as GCHQ warn of cyber hackers being able to alter ballots. Last month it was decided that Tory members would be able to change their vote later on in the contest in what was called “a distortion of democracy” by John Strafford, chair of the Campaign for Conservative Democracy.
It was also announced that in a historic move ballot papers could be submitted electronically and via post during the summer period, reported The Telegraph.
The idea to allow for a change in vote later on in the contest has now been scrapped due to the security threats.
Such a sudden change has led to the postal ballots being behind in their delivery dates as they were due to be sent out to approximately 160,000 members from Monday, but may now not be sent until August 11.
According to the Telegraph, the National Cyber Security Centre made the decision to delay the issuing of ballots as concerns rose that the democratic process could be thrown into disarray by cyber hackers.
Previously, multiple nations have been accused of attempting and sometimes succeeding to meddle in elections and other voting processes, but it is not thought that there is a specific threat in this incident.
A more general warning has been issued more about how the voting process functions and what its weaknesses are.
A spokesman from the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) said: “Defending UK democratic and electoral processes is a priority for the NCSC, and we work closely with all parliamentary political parties, local authorities, and MPs to provide security guidance and support.
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“Please do not worry. This is because we have taken some time to add some additional security to our ballot process, which has delayed us slightly.”
While the plan for a change in vote has been scrapped, members will still be issued a postal ballot with a unique code which could enable them to vote either by post or online for the first time.
The additional way of voting will likely mean that party chiefs will be under pressure to justify such methods amid security issues and to ensure that the voting process will be democratic and is not interfered with.