Author: webrootsdemocracy

Vince Cable backs online voting for trade union strike ballots

Liberal Democrat Business Secretary, Vince Cable has called for the introduction of online voting for trade union strike ballots.

The announcement comes after criticism from the Conservative Party that strikes go ahead despite low turnouts.  The Conservatives have instead called for the introduction of minimum thresholds.

The Business Secretary is launching a special task force to look into the new approach.

The move reflects one of the ten recommendations in WebRoots Democracy’s recent ‘Viral Voting‘ report which stated that the Government ‘should overturn legislation blocking online voting in Trade Union ballots and introduce online voting for Trade Union strike ballots by 2016.’

Writing in the Viral Voting report, General Secretary of the Trades Union Congress, Frances O’Grady said:

“It is in everyone’s interest to ensure that that as many people as possible participate.  But the government has saddled unions with twentieth century postal balloting methods that make it harder for working people to do just that.

Online voting is the way to bring balloting bang up to date and help ensure some equality in the workplace.”

Announcing the task force, Mr Cable said:

“We currently enjoy some of the best industrial relations in a generation, with overall strike days at an all-time low.

Unions have been central to our economic recovery by keeping employees flexible, so we could keep Britain working.

The Conservatives have an ideological aversion to trade unions and have repeatedly tried – and failed – during this Parliament to curtail their mandate, such as trying to impose an arbitrary minimum threshold for vote turnouts.

I favour more sensible reform by enabling unions to ballot their members using modern electronic voting.”

Under current laws, all union votes require a postal ballot.  If implemented, it is likely to boost the case for online voting in political elections.

Whilst the Liberal Democrats are yet to take a clear position on online voting, Deputy Leader of the Commons and Liberal Democrat, Tom Brake MP recently stated that he would be ‘very happy’ to see online voting trialled in the UK.

Do you think the UK should introduce an online voting option for elections?  Take a moment to sign and share our e-petition.

Download the Viral Voting report here.

Lib Dem Minister ‘would be very happy’ to see online voting piloted

Liberal Democrat Minister, Tom Brake MP has this week said that he would be ‘very happy’ to see online voting trials take place in the UK. Brake, the Deputy Leader of the House of Commons, was responding to the findings of the Speaker’s Commission on Digital Democracy which recommended in January that online voting should be in place for the 2020 General Election.

The findings were debated on Tuesday in a Westminster Hall debate called by Labour MP, Meg Hillier, who sits on the Speaker’s Commission.

The comments come in the same week a BBC/ComRes poll found that online voting was the most popular option amongst young people to increase their likelihood of voting.  63% of the more than 6,000 18 to 24 year old respondents said that online voting would make them more likely to vote.

Last week, WebRoots Democracy’s Viral Voting report was released which found that, in addition to providing numerous benefits to the electoral process, online voting could boost youth voter turnout in a General Election by 1.8 million to 70%.

Speaking in the Digital Democracy debate, Mr Brake highlighted the security concerns with online voting and read out results from his own survey of social media followers which had 64% in favour of the reform.  However, he said that support for online voting is ‘not universal’ and would have to be introduced as an option alongside the current methods of voting.

On his own views, the Liberal Democrat Minister said:

“What I would say as a Liberal Democrat as opposed to a Government Minister, I would be very happy for trials to take place in the future. I think, now that we have got Individual Electoral Registration in place, I think that was one of the things that was needed to ensure that we have the building blocks for these trials to take place. So, I hope that is something that will be considered in the future.”

Brake is the first senior Liberal Democrat to voice support for online voting trials, however, in 2011 after outlining plans for a referendum on the use of the Alternative Vote System, Leader Nick Clegg said that ‘it’s important to avoid asking people to keep traipsing to the ballot box.’

Click on the image to watch the clip.

Click on the image to watch the clip.

The Labour Party are currently the only major UK political party to commit to piloting online voting in the next Parliament with Constitutional Reform Lead, Sadiq Khan MP writing that ‘the way we run our democracy is stuck in a time warp.’

The Viral Voting report makes 10 recommendations on online voting including piloting it in 8 Mayoral elections, introducing online voting in Trade Union strike ballots, and for there to be cross-party agreement on implementing online voting.

Download the Viral Voting report here.

Do you think the UK should introduce an online voting option for elections?  Take a moment to sign and share our e-petition.

Women are at risk of falling off the electoral register – and out of the political debate

By Councillor Abena Oppong-Asare.

As we take the time to recognise and celebrate the achievements of women today, it’s important to recognise the low turnout of women at the last general election. A study carried out by the ‘House of Commons Library at the request of Labour deputy leader Harriet Harman, showed that 9.1 million women didn’t turn out to vote in the 2010 general election’.  The number of women turning up to vote has declined over the years. In 2005 and 2010 there were more male voters than female. Furthermore, 64 per cent of women voted in the last general election, compared to 67 per cent of men. The difference is even wider amongst younger voters with only 39 per cent of young women voting compared to 50 per cent of young men.

The general election on 7 May is going to be crucial and the number of women that turn up to vote will certainly make an impact on which political party gains power. It’s therefore really important that women turn out to vote. It is alarming to read that in 2015 that the turnout gap between sexes is getting wider, with women falling further behind when it comes to voting.

Gender inequality stills exists in the UK. The Equal Pay Act was passed 44 years ago and women still earn just 81p for every pound a man earns. Furthermore, the government’s own figures estimate that two-thirds (400,000) of those hit by the bedroom tax are women.

It is clear that there are many issues that affect women, but I believe that voting enables you to push for greater equality. It’s important that women are informed that the coalition has made changes to electoral law which means that registration must be completed individually, rather than by household. I know from speaking to many people in my role as a councillor that a lot of people are not aware of these changes, which potentially means they’ll miss out on being able to vote. I believe that it is important that people are informed of the changes, but unfortunately, the government reforms have failed to tackle this. Women not turning up to vote will be particularly bad for UK democracy because governments develop policy and party manifestos to appeal and reach out to voters and, largely, ignore those that don’t vote.

There are many factors that have affected the turnout of women going to vote. I come across many women on the doorstep, who are disengaged with the politics, parties and the voting process. Currently, men outnumber women 4 to 1 in Parliament, where women just make up just 22 per cent of MPs.  I am part of the Fabian Women’s Network Executive and we try to hold and attend events involving and encouraging women to participate in policy matters. We also offer a mentoring scheme to help women develop their political and public life skills.

All political parties need to come together to broaden the opportunities of the electoral process. A lot of women, like young people live on mobile phones, tablets and laptops and we should move towards online voting to tap in those that are already engaged in politics through various means such as Twitter, Facebook and blogs. On Tuesday 2 March, Areeq Chowdhury, Founder of WebRoots Democracy launched his report ‘Viral Voting’ in Parliament. The findings in the report show that online voting would encourage women, particularly young women, to vote than it would for men. Furthermore, that it could boost overall turnout in a general election by 9 million and boost youth voter turnout by 1.8 million, taking turnout to 70 per cent, up from 44 per cent in the 2010 general election. With these figures in mind, I urge you to read the report and join WebRoots Democracy’s campaign for online voting as it has the potential to help increase female voter turnout.

Abena Oppong-Asare is a Councillor in Bexley, the Deputy Leader of the Labour Group, and on the Fabian Women’s Network Executive.

Do you think the UK should introduce an online voting option for elections?  Take a moment to sign and share our e-petition.

This was originally published on the New Statesman here.

REPORT: Online voting could boost turnout by 9 million

An online voting option in UK elections could increase turnout by up to 9 million, according to a new report ‘Viral Voting’ launched today. The report also finds that online voting could reduce the cost per vote by a third, saving taxpayers £12 million per general election.

The report, by pressure group WebRoots Democracy, is the culmination of over a year’s worth of research into the potential of online voting for the UK. It includes analysis of UK public opinion, and outlines the benefits, challenges, and potential impact of online voting.

The findings show that 65% of the UK population are in favour of online voting. Young people are particularly attracted to the potential of online voting with the report estimating that youth voter turnout could increase to 70%, up from 44% in the 2010 General Election.

The report comes a week before MPs are due to debate the findings of the Speaker’s Commission on Digital Democracy, which included a strong recommendation for online voting to be introduced.

Viral Voting sets out ten recommendations including a target for online voting to be piloted in 8 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.

The report also calls for online voting to be introduced in Trade Union strike ballots by 2016.

Report author and Founder of WebRoots Democracy, Areeq Chowdhury said:

“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.”

The report contains forewords with support from a range of voices including Members of Parliament, Graham Allen and Chloe Smith, as well as the General Secretary of the Trades Union Congress, Frances O’Grady.

Graham Allen MP, Chair of the House of Commons Political and Constitutional Reform Select Committee said:

“Turnout for the last general election was only 65%. This is not an acceptable state of affairs for a modern democracy. We need new and innovative ways to get British people voting again.”

Chloe Smith MP, Conservative Member of Parliament said:

“This 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.”

Frances O’Grady, General Secretary of the Trades Union Congress said:

“It is in everyone’s interest to ensure that as many people as possible participate. But the government has saddled unions with twentieth century postal balloting methods that make it harder for working people to do just that.

Online voting is the way to bring balloting bang up to date and help ensure some equality in the workplace.”

Download and read the Viral Voting report here.

Do you think the UK should introduce an online voting option for elections?  Take a moment to sign and share our e-petition.

Online voting to be introduced in Gujarati elections

In what’s been described as a ‘one of its kind project in Asia’, the Gujarat Election Commission in India has announced that an online voting option is to be introduced for the October local authority elections this year.

Speaking about the decision, Secretary of the Gujarat Election Commission, M V Joshi said:

“This is a one of it’s kind project in Asia.  No other election commission in India is offering this.  We expect the facility to be availed by those who have no time to come out to booths and vote.  Now that voting is compulsory in the local body elections from this time, the online facility will facilitate and complement the same.”

In 2014, the state passed a bill making voting mandatory and ensuring a 50:50 male-female gender balance in local bodies.

Regarding the security of the system, Joshi said:

“Voters will have to use the same hardware for which the verification has been done.  At the time of voting, a one-time password will be sent to their mobile phones, which will be followed by verification online.  Then, the voter will be allowed to cast the vote online.”

Laxmi Vilas Palace, Vadodara, Gujarat

Laxmi Vilas Palace, Vadodara, Gujarat

The announcement comes shortly after Lithuanian Government approved proposals for online voting in Presidential, Parliamentary, Local, and European Parliament elections.  It also follows shortly after the 10th anniversary of electronic voting in Estonia.

The online voting method in Gujarat will be used for all six municipal corporations of Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Surat, Rajkot, Bhavnagar, and Jamnagar.

The combined population of these areas is approximately 14.7 million.

Do you think the UK should introduce an online voting option for elections?  Take a moment to sign and share our e-petition.

VIDEO: Estonian PM votes in just two and a half minutes

“Hello world, let me show you how voting is done in the most digital country in the world.”

In a video marking 10 years of electronic voting in Estonia, the Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas explains how online voting is done in Parliamentary elections.

Estonia is currently the only country in the world to use online voting in Parliamentary elections.

It’s been reported that the first day of online voting has already excelled the previous Parliamentary election with 22,011 people voting online compared to 18,676 in 2011.

In 2011, the number of online votes cast was almost five times larger than in 2007 with a total of 140,764 out of 580,264 votes cast via the internet.  This amounted to 24.3% of the total number of votes.  The percentage of online votes cast by voters aged 24 and under was 9%.

Lithuania have recently announced that they will also be introducing online voting in national elections mirroring the Estonian system.

For more information on online voting in Estonia, please view this post here.

Do you think the UK should introduce an online voting option for elections?  Take a moment to sign and share our e-petition.

Lithuanian Government approve bid to allow online voting in elections

It has been reported that the Lithuanian Government has approved a proposal put forward by Members of Parliament to introduce an online voting option in elections.  This covers Presidential, Parliamentary, Local, and European Parliament elections.  It also covers referenda.

A survey conducted by the Lithuanian Ministry of Justice found that 65% of Lithuanians are in favour of online voting.

In a press release, the Prime Minister, Algirdas Butkevičius said that “such a form of voting is very relevant for people of younger age, furthermore, online voting would be a far more convenient option for citizens who live outside Lithuania.”

Vilnius, Lithuania

The system will mirror the Estonian method of online voting and allow the public to vote online multiple times with only the last vote counting.  This acts as a safeguard against voters being pressured into voting for a particular party and acts as a disincentive to vote-buying.

The population of Lithuania stands at more than double that of Estonia at almost 3 million people.

Do you think the UK should introduce an online voting option for elections?  Take a moment to sign and share our e-petition.