The House of Commons Political and Constitutional Reform Committee have published a report today suggesting that the UK should introduce online voting in time for the 2020 General Election.
The report also includes a range of other recommendations to remedy poor voter engagement in the UK such as a national holiday for election day and reducing the voting age to 16.
The Chair of the Committee, Graham Allen MP said:
“The most radical set of reforms in a century to our voting is being offered to voters by Parliament, to tackle the democratic emergency which is corroding the foundation of our representative system.
Representative democracy in the UK is facing a crisis. This report pulls no punches and we have put forward a radical package of measures to match the scale of the challenge.”
The Committee has now started an eight week public consultation on their recommendations with a view to bringing about “a set of reforms equivalent to the IPSA purge on expenses”.
On the subject of online voting, the report says:
Online voting is a proposal for increasing levels of participation that has received strongest support from our witnesses, although support has not been unanimous. Enabling electors to cast their vote online if they choose to do so would make voting significantly more accessible. In light of the move to IER (individual electoral registration), and the already high take up of postal voting, there is scope for giving online voting further consideration, although this would need to be balanced with concerns about electoral fraud and secrecy of the ballot.
We believe that online voting could lead to a substantial increase in the level of participation at UK elections, and we recommend that the Government should come forward with an assessment of the challenges and likely impact on turnout, and run pilots in the next Parliament with a view to all electors having the choice of voting online at the 2020 general election.
The other recommendations in the report include:
– A civic duty to register to vote
– Being able to register to vote up to and including election day
– Fully postal voting in areas that wish it
– Mandatory voting, including an “abstention” option on the ballot paper
– And votes for 16 and 17 year olds by 2020.
Areeq Chowdhury, founder of WebRoots Democracy said:
“WebRoots Democracy welcomes the report on voter engagement launched today by the Political and Constitutional Reform Select Committee. The recommendation for political parties to include proposals for online voting in their 2015 manifestos is particularly pleasing and represents an important step towards modernising democracy.
The hallmark of a modern, 21st century democracy is the ability to elect our political representatives from the comfort of our homes via a smartphone, tablet or PC. The culture and way of life in the UK is increasingly moving towards instantaneous, digital accessibility, and thus far, the political system has lagged behind.
We agree that the introduction of online voting has the potential to lead to a substantial increase in the level of participation at UK elections and we shall be encouraging the public to engage with the Committee’s consultation on this matter in addition to the other recommendations put forward in this report. We also intend to submit evidence and recommendations from our own research into online voting to the Committee.”
The Committee’s consultation is open until January 9th here.
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