Could an #onlinevoting option have enticed the half a million that didn’t vote in the #indyref?

willieWhilst over two million Scots will be feeling relieved and more than one and half million nursing feelings of disappointment, there will be over half a million Scottish people confessing to having not voted in the independence referendum.

In total, over 665,000 registered voters did not cast a vote in the Scottish independence referendum.

This represents over 15% of the 4 million Scottish people that registered to vote and is a number that could have changed the result to a ‘Yes’ victory.

The turnout of 84.5% sets a record in major UK elections beating the 83.9% in the 1950 General Election, and ridicules the 62% average of recent General Elections.

However, in a referendum campaign that was of such constitutional importance to not just Scotland, but to the entire United Kingdom, it is significant that so many registered voters did not turn out to vote.

Whilst such a high turnout is something to be applauded, why is it that over half a million people that registered to vote did not turn out on polling day?

The common answers for not voting that pundits, political scientists, and politicians would tell you are that the electorate are ‘apathetic’, ‘disengaged’, or ‘disillusioned’.

However, this was a referendum over immense constitutional change that commentators and pollsters said could go either way, and one which remained at the forefront of media attention for the past two years. In addition, it was a referendum in which more than eight out of ten Scottish people took part in.

A ‘yes or no’ question that everybody influential from JK Rowling to Andy Murray expressed an opinion on.

It is therefore inconceivable that the 665,000 non-voters ‘did not care’, ‘did not want to take part in’ or ‘forgot about’ such an important vote.

Whilst the electorate may be disillusioned with politics in parliamentary elections, in a referendum it is a different story. In a referendum, the result is decided by simple majority and everyone’s vote counts. It is not expenses-abusing, promise-breaking, corrupt politicians deciding the future, it is the people themselves.

Direct democracy.

So why is it that over half a million decided not to vote? I guess they themselves are the only ones who can really answer that question, but would reducing barriers to voting help bridge the gap?

Aside from the high turnout, the result itself, and the generally peaceful conduct of the debate, what I found most striking about the referendum was how digital it was. I think, perhaps, it was the most digital political campaign in history.

Almost every online method of campaigning was exercised during the referendum campaign with hundreds of thousands engaging with social media accounts, streaming the Darling-Salmond debates, taking part in MumsNet discussions, and instragamming memes of everyone from William Wallace to Groundskeeper Willie.

Mr Salmond and Mr Darling even took part in the Ice Bucket Challenge. Do you remember that?

Whilst this was the most digital campaign in history, in an increasingly digital country, the method of voting remained the traditional way that it has been in the UK since the late 1800s, by paper.

I have written before of the need for online voting, but with regards to this case, was accessibility an issue, and could an online voting option have helped people?

For parents with full-time jobs and children to look after; it would be more accessible. For those on low pay, working two jobs; it would be more accessible. And for those who have a disability and struggle to leave the house; it would be more accessible.

Is it then the case that non-voters were put off by queues, caring responsibilities, and busy schedules? Would an online voting option have made it easier? Or am I wrong and is it the case that the 655,000 people simply ‘did not care’ about having a say on Scotland’s future?

Would you be more likely to vote if you could do so online? Let us know here.

This was originally posted on the Huffington Post here.

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