Author: webrootsdemocracy

Labour leadership vote is set to be the largest online voting election in UK history

According to the latest figures released by the UK Labour Party, more than 600,000 people will be eligible to vote in the Party’s leadership election.  Voting ballots are to be sent out on Friday 14th August with the selectorate able to cast their vote via post or online.  The vote closes on Thursday 10th September with the result announced 2 days later on the 12th.

The vote is set to be the largest election using online voting in the history of the UK.

The Scottish National Party included an online voting option for last year’s Deputy Leadership election with almost 35,000 voters taking part.  The Labour Party also used online voting for their National Executive Committee elections last year with former London Mayor, Ken Livingstone, coming top with 39,000 votes.

The number of voters taking part in the Labour leadership election will be almost ten times more than the number that took part in the 2002 Government pilots of electronic voting.

The demand for online voting in the UK has grown significantly in the past year with a recent poll by WebRoots Democracy and YouGov finding that 56% of the British public want online voting implemented in the upcoming EU referendum.  In London, another WebRoots/YouGov poll found 59% in favour of implementing online voting in the Mayoral election. Leading contenders for Mayor, Labour’s Sadiq Khan MP and the Conservatives’ Zac Goldsmith MP have ‘thrown their weight’ behind the campaign.

Labour leadership hopefuls (L-R): Liz Kendall, Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper, and Jeremy Corbyn.

Labour leadership hopefuls (L-R): Liz Kendall, Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper, and Jeremy Corbyn.

With potentially more than 600,000 people taking part, the Labour leadership election could have more voters than the 2015 Parliamentary elections in Estonia in which 578,000 people turned out to vote. Estonia is currently the only country to use online voting in nationwide Parliamentary elections.

Calls for online voting to be introduced in UK elections have been made by Speaker Bercow’s Commission on Digital Democracy as well as the House of Commons Political and Constitutional Reform Select Committee.

Across the Atlantic, US President Barack Obama recently stated that online voting ‘should absolutely be a priority’ for technologists saying that ‘the goal should be for “we the people” to mean something in a 21st century context.’

The ‘Viral Voting’ report published by WebRoots Democracy set out ten recommendations in order for the UK to implement online voting which included pilots in devolved Mayoral elections.

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

Obama: Online voting ‘should absolutely be a priority’

United States President, Barack Obama, has revealed in a recent interview with tech business magazine ‘Fast Company’ that he believes online voting should ‘absolutely’ be a priority.

In the context of using technology to enable better services for the public, the 44th President said that he wants technology to ‘help shape policy’ in order to solve some of the challenges facing the country. Ultimately, he states, Governments should be thinking about how technology can ‘enhance the experience of democracy.’

As with much of the debate surrounding online voting, Obama points to the future and the potential that the reform could have on the youth of today:

“I look at my daughters, who are, as every teenage kid is today, completely fluent in technology and social media. They might not go to a town hall meeting physically, the way their grandmother might have around some issue, and sit through a two-hour debate. Because they’re just used to things moving faster. But we can imagine creating a corollary process for them that is consistent with how they interact generally. We can think of apps that promote engagement and the power of people.”

The US President argues that his daughters’ generation are ‘used to things moving faster.’

He foresees the private sector having a role to play in developing the technology for online voting and believes that online voting is ‘something that all of us in every level of public life should be thinking about’ and that the goal should be to ‘make “we the people” mean something in a 21st century context.’

Across the Atlantic, here in the UK, demand for online voting has been growing with a recent poll by WebRoots Democracy and YouGov finding that 56% of the public want an online voting option implemented in the upcoming referendum on EU membership.  A separate poll in the capital found 59% of Londoners in favour of implementing an online voting option for the London Mayoral Election.  Following the release of the poll, leading Mayoral candidates Labour’s Sadiq Khan and the Conservatives’ Zac Goldsmith voiced their support for introducing online voting.

Reports earlier this year by the Speaker’s Commission on Digital Democracy and by the House of Commons Political and Constitutional Reform Select Committee recommended that online voting should be introduced for the 2020 General Election.

The ‘Viral Voting’ report published by WebRoots Democracy set out ten recommendations in order for the UK to implement online voting which included pilots in devolved Mayoral elections.

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

Read the full Fast Company interview with Barack Obama here.

ONS data shows that daily internet usage has doubled in the past decade

The latest figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) have shown that in 2015, the proportion of adults in Great Britain that use the internet on a daily basis has more than doubled compared to 2006. The total number of adults that use the internet everyday or nearly everyday is 39.3 million (78%).  In 2006, when directly comparable records began, the proportion was 35%.

The data also shows that almost all (96%) of those aged 16 to 24 use the internet ‘on the go’.

Most strikingly, smartphones have overtaken laptops and tablets as the most common device to use the internet on the go. Two-thirds of ‘on the go’ internet users accessed the internet via their mobile phone, compared with 45% using laptops, and 17% using other handheld devices.

The latest figures show that 96% of young people use the internet ‘on the go’.

Sending and receiving emails remains the most common use of the internet with 76% doing so, however the proportion of those reading online news, newspapers, or magazines has increased from 20% in 2007 to 62% in 2015.  In addition to this, the proportion of adults using social networks has continued to increase with 61% doing so in 2015, compared to 54% in 2014 and 45% in 2011.

Online shopping has experienced strong growth, too, with 90% of 16 to 24 year olds buying goods online which is an increase on 65% in 2008.  The total proportion of adults buying goods online is 76% up from 53% in 2008.  42% made purchases worth between £100 to £500, and 9% made purchases of £2,000 or more.

These figures, yet again, display the growing demand for the provision of online services. Recent polls by WebRoots Democracy and YouGov have shown that this demand is reflected in the public’s desire for the ability to be able to vote online, too, a reform which has recently been supported by London Mayoral contenders Sadiq Khan MP and Zac Goldsmith MP.

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

Access the Office for National Statistics ‘Internet Access – Households and Individuals 2015′ statistical bulletin here.

WebRoots Democracy/YouGov poll shows majority want online voting implemented in the EU referendum

More than half (56%) of the British public who are online support the inclusion of an online voting option in the upcoming EU referendum, a new YouGov poll commissioned by WebRoots Democracy has revealed.

The online poll of 1,543 adults in Great Britain, also found that more than 50% of voters for each of the four main political parties (Conservatives, Labour, Lib Dems, and UKIP) back the reform with support particularly high amongst Liberal Democrat voters (66%).

Across the country, support is strongest in London (59%) with each of the other regions (Rest of South, Midlands/Wales, North, and Scotland) also showing support of more than 50%.

In another WebRoots Democracy/YouGov poll released today, 59% of Londoners who are online are in favour of implementing an online voting option for the 2016 London Mayoral Election.  The poll of 1,047 adults in London, also found that support was particularly high amongst Labour voters (70%).

WebRoots Democracy is calling for the introduction of an online voting option and warns that the Government risks being complacent on voter turnout for the referendum.

With turnout in the last UK-wide referendum (on AV), in 2011, being 41%, and last year’s European Parliament elections experiencing an even lower turnout of 34%, there is no guarantee that a high turnout in the EU referendum will occur.

Founder of WebRoots Democracy, Areeq Chowdhury said:

“The decision on whether or not the UK stays in the EU will affect all of us, and it is vital that this decision is made by as many of us as possible.

It’s important that we do not over-hype the public’s engagement on the EU question. If the European Parliament elections last year are anything to go by, the majority of the electorate may end up not taking part in the referendum.

Online voting should be taken seriously by the Government and plans for its implementation should be drawn up at the earliest opportunity.”

Figures released last year, by the Office for National Statistics, showed that 76% of the adult population use the internet on a daily basis.

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

Click here to download the full survey results.

WebRoots Democracy/YouGov poll shows majority want online voting implemented in the 2016 London Mayoral Election

59% of Londoners who are online support the inclusion of an online voting option in next year’s London Mayoral Election, a new YouGov poll commissioned by WebRoots Democracy has revealed.

The online poll of 1,047 adults in London, also found that almost 50% of voters for each of the four main political parties (Conservatives, Labour, Lib Dems, and UKIP) back the reform with support particularly high amongst Labour voters (70%).

Support is strong across all age groups with half of those aged 60 and over in favour of voting online next year.  70% of those aged 25 to 39 are in favour.

In another WebRoots Democracy/YouGov poll released today, 56% of the British public who are online are in favour of implementing an online voting option for the upcoming EU referendum. The poll of 1,543 adults in Great Britain, also found that support for the reform is strongest in London (59%).

WebRoots Democracy is calling for the introduction of an online voting option and warns that persistently low voter turnout in London Mayoral Elections calls into question the legitimacy of the position.

Voter turnout in London Mayoral Elections since 2000 averages just 39% and has never reached 50%.

Founder of WebRoots Democracy, Areeq Chowdhury said:

“Next year’s London Mayoral Election will be the first major vote in the UK since the General Election.

The Mayor of London wields significant power in the capital and the Government is currently seeking to replicate the position across the country with a Mayoral election planned for Greater Manchester in 2017.

The core of a representative democracy is the participation of the public in elections. An average turnout of 39% in London Mayoral Elections is dire and calls into question the legitimacy of the position.

It’s clear that the majority of Londoners support the implementation of online voting and the Government should take this seriously by beginning to draw up long overdue plans for its introduction.”

Figures released last year, by the Office for National Statistics, showed that 76% of the adult population use the internet on a daily basis.

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

Click here to download the full survey results.

#WebRootsLDN hears calls for online voting, votes at 16, and more diverse candidates

WebRoots Democracy celebrated its one year anniversary this month with a panel discussion in the House of Commons looking at methods of tackling low voter turnouts in London Mayoral Elections.

Joining the panel were David Lammy MP (Labour); Councillor Sian Berry (Green Party); Peter Kellner (YouGov); Mita Desai (British Youth Council); Ralph Scott (Demos); and Kenny Imafidon.  The 75 minute panel discussion looked at a range of issues including online voting, votes at 16, and the need for greater diversity in politics.

Online voting

The discussion began with Ralph Scott of Demos citing research by the think tank which found that online voting was the most popular reform that would make young people more likely to vote, with the support of 66% of respondents in their study.  He also emphasised the gap in voter participation between older and younger people.

This was followed by London Mayoral hopeful, David Lammy, backing calls for online voting to be introduced and focused on the need to make the democratic ‘easy and accessible.’  He also criticised the £3 cost that non-Labour members have to pay in order to vote in the party’s candidate selection.

Green Party candidate, Sian Berry, was skeptical however and said she would only support the reform if it could be made secure.  Peter Kellner, Mita Desai, and Kenny Imafidon all voiced their support for online voting, with Mita Desai explaining how online voting is successfully used within the British Youth Council and Kenny Imafidon arguing that online voting would increase turnout in elections.

Votes at 16

There was consensus across the panel on introducing votes for 16 and 17 year olds, with David Lammy calling for the power to set the voting age to be devolved to City Hall as has been done recently with the Scottish Parliament.  Sian Berry explained how the Green Party does not discriminate by age and believes that votes at 16 will happen.

Mita Desai, the Chair of the British Youth Council who have been leading the campaign for votes at 16 in the UK, said it was ‘disgusting’ that votes at 16 is still not a reality.  Ralph Scott stated that Demos are in favour of votes at 16 and said that the requirement for young people to stay in education until the age of 18 provides an even stronger argument.

Peter Kellner called for an ‘opt-out’ method of automatic voter registration and Kenny Imafidon urged for political education to be compulsory at schools.

Diversity

Following the severe lack of diverse candidates that have stood in London Mayoral Elections since 2000 compared to the diverse census statistics for London, the need for greater diversity enjoyed much support by the panel.

Sian Berry voiced her support for positive discrimination policies to help remedy this problem and gave examples where the Green Party has been implementing this.  Meanwhile, David Lammy argued that race has ‘dropped off the agenda’ in British politics and that the Labour Party has ‘got itself into a mess with equality’ and called for the Labour Party to do more to address this.

Mita Desai stressed the need for more youth schemes and mentoring opportunities to ensure that diverse young people have the skills and confidence to succeed in society.  Other panellists highlighted that this is an issue across society with Peter Kellner stating that there is an issue of sexism in recruitment and Kenny Imafidon questioning classism.

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

The 2015 Election: Illustrating the need for a digital age of politics

By Nick Kajkowski.

The general election has now been and gone marking the end of a turbulent five years of history. For many people it has resembled a continuing saga of recession, gloomy and apprehensive, of tightened belt-buckles and bare pockets. And not least for young people, a still largely ignored section of society for whom the election result similarly represented more of the same: a preservation of the status-quo and the suppression of lingering hope, rather than the Dylanesque changing of the times that many were hoping for.

But where did it all go wrong? It was, after all, a tumultuous five years. We had referendums and riots, austerity and outrage, protests and petitions. Many were wondering if there was going to be a youthful surge, with 14% more young people reportedly registered to vote, potentially heralding the largest youth turnout for over 50 years. If this was true then it would have surely meant a swing to the left and a probable dethroning of the Conservatives.

In the end the wish failed to materialise (as most exit polls had suggested). It turned out that only 43% of 18-24’s voted; no 50-year trend bucked, rather a lingering of apathetic malaise. But the hope wasn’t necessarily misplaced. Young people could have affected the outcome. Some may argue that Labour lost the election, that the Scots gifted the Tories victory, or that even the Tories simply ran the best campaign. However you could also argue that the abstinence of young voters contributed heavily to the outcome.

The UK has an ageing population and a powerful professional class. And guess what? These people generally go out and vote (Conservative). As one commentator put it: “the Conservatives did well with voters that turn out. Labour did well with voters who don’t vote.” The Ipsos-Mori statistics on which he was commentating on illustrate it clearly. The highest turnout groups were amongst older and higher-income people, whereas “Labour only had a clear lead over the Conservatives among 18-34s, voters in social class DE, among private and social renters, and BME voters”, or in other words the younger (and/or poorer) demographic. Likewise the Greens. But these people evidently didn’t turn up and the government breathed a sigh of relief.

Will the 2015 General Election be remembered as the first selfie-election?

London Mayor Boris Johnson (L) and Prime Minister David Cameron (R) posing for selfies during the election campaign.

In contrast 80% of 2010 Conservative voters faithfully voted blue again. Why? Because they understand how their vote serves them and, in turn, are better integrated into the political process than the younger demographic. And duly they get their wishes: to make immigration the hot topic, to have their taxes lowered and their TV license renewed while the youth are plied with debt, prevented from home-ownership, and struggle to find a decent job. The apathy and disconnect from the democratic process that it creates is a vicious circle, dis-incentivising the rulers from formulating beneficial policies for them. Young people need to feel more involved in the political process so that they can see how they can affect change (as happened in certain marginal seats and the Scottish referendum).

So how do we boost youth turnout? A huge step would be the introduction of online voting. Apart from the financial savings, reductions in accidentally spoilt ballots and more efficient counting process, this shift could potentially bring in a further 9 million people into the voting process, many of them young people. This digitally-savvy demographic also happen to be socially liberal, positive about multi-culturalism, pro-Europe and more concerned about housing, jobs, the NHS, tuition fees, inequality and the environment rather than immigrants, taxes and war.

It’s not just about forcing young people to vote or even about fighting apathy. They care about their future and are demanding more representation and desiring change. Student protests, the Occupy Movement, anti-austerity marches, e-petitions, boycotts and voluntary service participation are all evidence of this, processes and events driven by the younger demographic. The main problem is that the current political system excludes and alienates them. The debates are staid and monotonous, the rhetoric unrepresentative and the process like a pantomime. The idea of even going and queueing at a polling station to vote for people you hardly have even heard of is archaic and unappealing to them. Despite the pre-election gabble many young people didn’t even know how to register or vote.

The benefits of online voting aren’t just limited to their potential to increase turnout, but more in their ability to elucidate the process and drag it into the 21st century; the era of social media and online engagement. It’s already been tried and tested in Estonia, India and Israel, helping to “crowdsource public opinion and channel the collective voice of communities”. This is what the UK needs. This is the first step to empower young people and reform our political system to make it more representative and pertinent. Just as the future of democracy is digital, the future of voting has to be online.

Nick Kajkowski is an English teacher in Colombia and has a Master’s degree in International Relations from Lancaster University.

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