By Areeq Chowdhury.
Today, two out of three people will not turn out to vote in the Local Council and Devolved Mayoral elections taking place across England, Wales, and Scotland. There are many reasons for this, but something that would be sure to help increase participation in future is the introduction of online voting.
Our democracy is so old-fashioned and dated, it’s expired. Today, a number of politicians up and down the country will be given powers over local services, transport, and even parts of the NHS. In Greater Manchester, the new Mayor will have control over a £6 billion health and social care budget.
These elections are critically important to people’s lives but our failing democratic system means many of the people who depend on these services will not have their voices heard in how those services should be run.
Online voting is not a silver-bullet, but it is a bullet that can fire our democracy out of the 1880s and into the 21st century. As well as enabling voters with vision impairments and other disabilities to vote secretly and independently, online voting would increase accessibility for expatriate voters, young people, and those in the armed forces. It could also help bring down the taxpayer cost of administering elections.
Last year on the day of the EU referendum, torrential rain closed polling stations and ground public transport to a halt, preventing people from voting. It doesn’t need to be this way.
The way we live today is dramatically different to the way we lived in the 1880s. Since then we have moved from gramophones to cassettes, to CDs, to MP3, to Spotify. We’ve moved from coins to bank notes, to cheques, to cards, to contactless. We’ve moved from pigeons to postbox, to email, to text, to stories. All the while, our act of democracy has remained unchanged with a box, a pencil, and a sheet of paper. It’s out of date and out of touch.
That’s why today we are launching a crowdfunding campaign with Crowdpac to help support our research and advocacy work on online voting. Some say online voting is ‘inevitable’. It is, but our work and your help is an essential part of that inevitability. If you want to find out more, donate, and help modernise democracy in the UK, click on the link below.
Click here to support our crowdfunding campaign.
Areeq Chowdhury is the Chief Executive of WebRoots Democracy.