The UK Prime Minister, David Cameron has said in a live interview that he doesn’t have any objection to online voting.
Whilst taking part in Sky News’ #AskTheLeaders event this week, the Prime Minister and Leader of the Conservative Party was asked about his views on online voting and votes for 16 and 17 year olds.
In response to the question on online voting, Mr Cameron said:
“Online voting? I mean I don’t have any objection to it, but I think in a way we’re asking the wrong question. The reason people don’t vote is not because it’s too complicated to go down to the polling station; the reason that people don’t vote is because they don’t believe it makes enough of a difference.”
After being asked a follow up question about whether politicians are in fact afraid of what would happen if more people voted, the Prime Minister replied:
“Look, I don’t have any great objection to it… but the reason people don’t vote is not because it’s too complicated to go down to the polling station.”
Despite his comments, making voting more accessible through an online system is something that a number of organisations have called for.
In 2010, the disability charity, Scope, called for an online voting option to be introduced after a survey they carried out found that more than two-thirds of the general election polling stations failed basic access tests. In addition to this, 35% of those interviewed as part of their study said they would prefer to vote online.
Last year, the Royal London Society for the Blind (RLSB) called for online voting to be introduced in the 2020 election in order to ‘make voting easier for blind and partially-sighted people.’ A survey carried out by RLSB showed that two-thirds of blind and partially-sighted respondents had to give up their right to vote in secret at the May 2014 elections due to polling stations being ‘unequipped’ to assist voters with vision difficulties.
In September last year, a US Federal Judge ordered Maryland to allow disabled voters to fill out absentee ballots online in what has been described as a ‘civil rights issue’ for people with disabilities.
Aside from accessibility benefits, a number of studies have found that up to 80% of young people would be more likely to vote if they could do so online. A survey carried out by WebRoots Democracy found that 71% of respondents would be more likely.
Whilst it doesn’t seem as though the Prime Minister is going to look to introduce online voting should he be re-elected in May, his comments this week are a significant improvement on his previous views. In April last year, during a talk at Vodafone HQ, Mr Cameron said that politicians should not ‘pander’ to a generation that wants elections to be ‘just like voting on the X Factor.’ He also suggested that voters should make ‘rain-sodden’ journeys to the polling station due to voting being something that people have ‘died for’.
The comments made this week that he now doesn’t have any objection to online voting is significant and a reason for hope that cross-party agreement on the issue can one day be achieved.
The Sky News Stand Up Be Counted ‘Ask the Leaders’ event was hosted by Facebook and broadcast by Sky News on Monday 2nd February 2015. The all-day event involved young people asking questions of the leaders of the Conservatives, Labour, the Liberal Democrats, and the Greens.
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