The UK Government will not make an assessment of the impact severe weather conditions had on the EU referendum last year, according to Cabinet Office Minister, Chris Skidmore MP.
In response to a parliamentary question by WebRoots Democracy ambassador, Graham Allen MP, raising the occurrence of severe flooding on the day of the EU referendum last year, and of Storm Doris on the day of recent by-elections in Stoke and Copeland, Mr Skidmore said:
“Turnout at elections can be affected by a range of factors and it is difficult to apply impacts to any particular factor. We do not make assessments specifically focused on the effect of the weather on electoral turnout.”
On the day of the EU referendum, 40 flood alerts were launched across the South East of England, with torrential rain and flash flooding closing some polling stations and causing severe travel delays for commuters. A 2004 study by academics at Stanford University found that weather can impact voter turnout by up to 5%, which if applied to the EU referendum would equate to more than 2.3 million voters.
In response to the suggestion for the Government to explore the potential of remote online voting to counter this problem in the future, the Minister said the Government has “no current plans to introduce online voting.”
Separately, the Government has responded to WebRoots Democracy’s recent report, Democracy 2.0 following questions by Conservative peer Lord Lexden, SNP MP Tommy Sheppard, and Labour’s Shadow Minister for Voter Engagement, Cat Smith MP.
In addition to outlining its plans for political education in schools, the Government said they plan to ‘examine concerns around issues like trolling and other aggressive behaviour which impact on politicians and citizens more generally.’ Matt Hancock MP, a Minister at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport also highlighted plans on digital literacy education:
“The Department for Education (DfE) launched the new computing curriculum, includes digital literacy, in September 2014. DfE has provided additional funding for digital skills through The Good Things Foundation, funding 680,000 people since 2014.
Government is also introducing a digital entitlement to ensure that publicly funded digital training to people who are over the age of 19 and do not have such skills.”
On the topic of online voting, the headline recommendation of the Speaker’s Commission on Digital Democracy, the Government said ‘there are no plans to introduce this at this time.’
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