An online voting option in the UK elections could increase voter turnout by up to 9 million, a new report called ‘Viral Voting’ reveals.
The findings indicate more than half of the UK population are in favour of online voting. It also suggests the attraction for online voting is primarily more among young people, with an estimation of a 70 per cent increase in youth voter turnout compared to the 44 per cent in the 2010 General Election.
The report claims that online voting could save taxpayers £12 million per general election by reducing the cost per vote by a third.
The survey is the brainchild of pressure group WebRoots Democracy that campaigns for the introduction of online voting in Local and General Elections in the UK as a way to reverse low electoral turnout and fight political apathy.
Report author and Founder of WebRoots Democracy, Areeq Chowdhury said: ‘It’s time for politics to fast-forward to the present. The UK is a politically active nation online, and we need to translate this passion to voting: the bedrock of our democracy. Analogue methods of politics will increasingly become incompatible with the digital world of today’.
He added: ‘This report clearly sets out the need for online voting, and I urge all political parties to commit to introducing it as an option in elections. If the recommendations in this report are followed, we may well see voting go viral one day’.
The report comes at a strategic time when next week the parliament is going to debate on the findings of the Speaker’s Commission on Digital Democracy. The commission was set up in an attempt to investigate the scope for digital technology in a parliamentary democracy in the UK. The commission in its report recommended the need for introduction of online voting to promote greater participation of young people.
Chloe Smith MP, Conservative Member of Parliament said: ‘The Viral Voting report is well-timed and stuffed full of smart facts that make the case for future-proofing our democracy. The technical method in which we vote isn’t everything – ideas, policies, leadership, vision, involvement and achievements are paramount – but our democracy will wither if it doesn’t keep up with the way people live their lives’.
Over the years, voter turnout in the UK elections has seen a downward trend. According to the British Election Study, in the context of this falling turnout at General Elections, the decline has been the sharpest among voters aged 18-24.
Agatka Cienciala, Royal London Society for the Blind Youth Forum member said: ‘By introducing online voting, I believe that the increasingly digitalised young people of today will feel more included in the democratic process and disabled people may, at last, receive the possibility of a secret ballot’.
Youth participation is recognised as crucial to the proper functioning of a healthy democracy. With the next generation going digital, introduction of online voting to encourage participation from the tech-savvy youth of the country seems to be the need of the hour. Besides, online voting can also make voting more convenient, accessible and error free.
Jonathan Birdwell, Head of Political Participation at Demos said: ‘This report provides all you need to know about the possibilities, benefits and challenges of online voting. It should be read and taken seriously by everyone who is concerned with ensuring that our democracy remains relevant for the next generation of digital natives’.
Viral Voting report includes analysis of UK public opinion, and outlines the benefits, challenges, and potential impact of online voting.
It also makes ten recommendations including the proposal for a pilot online voting in eight Mayoral elections (Doncaster, Hackney, Lewisham, Manchester, Newham, North Tyneside, Tower Hamlets, and Watford) and for the public to be able to vote online in the 2020 General Election.