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.
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.
— RegistHERtoVote (@RegistHERtoVote) July 6, 2015
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.
— Jack Welch (@MrJW18) July 6, 2015
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.
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.
— ivote2015 (@iVote2015) July 6, 2015
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.