Author: webrootsdemocracy

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.

The EU referendum: Engaging in Europe

By Alex Hitchcock.

The European Union is an enigma, comprising a bewildering mix of legal, economic and political institutions and legislative bodies. Its complexity leads to a misunderstanding of its functions and a barrier to engagement. Almost two-thirds of Brits do not feel they are well informed about the EU. This translates to low voter turnout in European Parliament elections, as this chart shows.

Alienation is natural. Newspapers and politicians spread misinformation and few of us are motivated to commit the time needed to understand the shapeshifting nuances of the EU – the treaty changes, the membership applications or the 1,700 pieces of legislation passed last year.

But the EU is, of course, highly relevant. It governs our everyday actions: from how many hours we can work to the types of lightbulbs we can use. Freedom of movement means that around 500 million EU citizens can migrate to the UK.

More philosophically, debates over our position within the EU revolve around some of the most profound issues of any modern democracy: the pros and cons of immigration (morally, socially and economically); the UK’s global economic position; and the democratic deficit that the EU might present. So we should engage.

And now is the perfect time to do so. One of David Cameron’s key election pledges was a referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU. With a Conservative Government, the referendum will be held sometime before the end of 2017, which gives everyone time to get up to speed.

David Cameron is trying to renegotiate the UK's role in the EU.

David Cameron recently hosted European Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker (L) at Chequers.

In the run up to this referendum, much will be written on the key issues surrounding the EU, from all political positions. Whatever your preferred newspaper, magazine or blog, each will have something to say: how a referendum result would affect the cost of studying in Europe, your rights at work or even the position of expats. This expanding literature will give you a chance to follow and digest debates on your terms, on issues that affect you, providing every opportunity to engage in the EU.

A referendum should also motivate the disengaged as it removes the evils ever present in other elections. All votes will count, unlike in our constituency-based general elections, where the value of one’s vote varies depending on how ‘safe’ the seat is. The EU referendum will also transcend party politics: the Tories will be split and the other main parties will join to campaign to vote to remain in the Union.

Further engagement would also arise from an online voting system. WebRoots Democracy has persuasively shown that online voting could increase voter turnout by 9 million voters in a UK general election (and save millions of pounds). Using online voting for the referendum may be wishful thinking, but its installation would continue the trend of implementing technology during EU referendums: the 1975 referendum saw the first televised political debates.

Furthermore, the recent Scottish independence referendum highlights the extent to which involvement in an issue can spark widespread engagement. On a similarly important constitutional issue of independence, the 2014 referendum saw a huge turnout of around 85 percent – much higher than any recent general election turnout in the country. Importantly, however, this translated into increased political dialogue: a study concluded that following the referendum, Scots were more likely than people in other parts of the UK to engage in political dialogue and activity. In addition, the 2015 general election turnout was a full five percent higher in Scotland than in the UK as a whole – the largest gap in the postwar period.

This shows that political engagement can be created following a passionate and informed referendum debate, revolving around fundamental issues. Informed debate and a strong turnout will provide political energy and legitimacy for the EU referendum, no matter the result. These would be strong foundations upon which to improve engagement in a variety of political issues.

Alex Hitchcock is a History graduate currently working for a think tank in Westminster.

Secure online voting will be used in the Labour leadership election

Procedural guidelines published by the Labour Party this week have outlined that ‘secure electronic voting’ will be an option in the upcoming Labour leadership and deputy leadership elections.  This follows their adoption of online voting last year in internal elections for their National Executive Committee.

The UK Labour Party are electing a new leadership team following the Party’s defeat in the 2015 General Election and the resignation of previous leader Ed Miliband.  Acting leader, Harriet Harman, also announced that she would be vacating her Deputy Leader role.

Contenders for Labour Leader are former Health Secretary, Andy Burnham; Shadow Home Secretary, Yvette Cooper; Shadow Care Minister, Liz Kendall; Shadow International Development Secretary, Mary Creagh; and the prominent anti-war campaigner Jeremy Corbyn.

The procedural guidelines show that Electoral Reform Services (ERS) will be conducting the one-person-one-vote ballot.  The organisation also ran last year’s NEC elections.  Their website describes their online voting solution as ‘secure’ and that security is the ‘cornerstone’ of their brand.

Andy Burnham and Yvette Cooper are thought to be the front-runners in the leadership race.

Labour aren’t the only party to use online voting for internal elections.  The Scottish National Party used it to elect their new Deputy Leader, Stewart Hosie, following the 2014 Scottish independence referendum.

Labour have also called for online voting to be piloted in national elections with Tooting MP, Sadiq Khan blogging for WebRoots Democracy that online voting could lead to ‘a transformation in how people engage in democracy.’

The other method of voting in the Labour leadership election is by post, and for the first time the election will be a ‘one-person-one-vote’ election following reforms in the Party’s links with trade unions.  The election will also allow non-members to vote for a fee of £3.

Both the postal package and digital version will also include candidates’ statements and lists of nominations.

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

Queen’s Speech hints at introducing online voting for overseas voters

The Queen’s speech has hinted at the possibility of introducing an online voting option to make elections more accessible for overseas voters.

The Queen’s Speech takes place during the State Opening of Parliament which marks the formal start of the parliamentary year.  The Queen’s Speech sets out the Government’s agenda for the coming session, outlining proposed policies and legislation.

One of the bills, entitled the “Votes for Life” bill, outlines proposals to scrap the current 15-year time limit on UK citizens living abroad voting in Westminster and European elections.  It also states that it will provide for secure and accessible registration of overseas electors.

On electoral administration, the Queen’s Speech states that the bill contains ‘provisions to make it easier for overseas electors to vote in time to be counted.’

The Queen sent her first ever tweet in October last year.

The Queen sent her first ever tweet in October last year.

It is not yet clear what form this will take, but with previous experience of issues with the postal voting method, it may allude to the introduction of an online voting option for overseas voters.

The bill also references a report by the Hansard Society from March 2014 entitled “Our forgotten voters: British citizens abroad” which states as one of its recommendations that ‘a feasibility study of electronic voting should be carried out’ with the trial being undertaken ‘in parts of the world with a high concentration of British expatriates.’

There are an estimated 4.6 million UK citizens currently living abroad.

Other countries that have used online voting for overseas voters include France, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain (Catalonia), and the USA (Arizona and West Virginia).

The Labour Party have called for online voting to be piloted in the UK and research by WebRoots Democracy has found that introducing an online voting option in elections could significantly boost turnout, accessibility, and accuracy.

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