The Conservative Party have pledged to “retain the traditional method of voting by pencil and paper” in their manifesto for the 2017 General Election as part of their plans to create a “flourishing and secure democracy”.
Other commitments include plans to legislate for ID checks at polling stations, and to implement first-past-the-post for Mayoral and Crime Commissioner elections, which currently use preferential voting systems. The manifesto also rejects moves to lower the voting age and pledges to repeal the Fixed Term Parliaments Act.
It sets out plans to continue with the Boundary Review and to enable all British expatriates to vote in elections regardless of how long they have lived outside of the UK. The current limit is 15 years.
Our response to the planned reforms is set out below:
We welcome the ideal set out in the Conservative manifesto to make democracy “as accessible as possible” and to “make every vote count”, however it’s highly disappointing to see that there are no measures set out to actually achieve that aim.
In particular, we are disappointed to see a thinly-veiled rejection of online voting. The recent Mayoral elections achieved on average 28% turnout, many voters with disabilities are locked out by paper voting methods, and millions of expatriate voters that will be enfranchised by Votes for Life will struggle to vote without online voting.
In this upcoming election, 15 to 20 million people are likely to not participate. None of the measures set out in the manifesto today will do anything to change this. To have a flourishing democracy, we need to have a democracy that is fit for the 21st century, not one which clings onto a bygone way of life.
Labour and the Liberal Democrats have pledged to lower the voting age to 16 and to establish a Constitutional Convention to explore democratic reforms, but have made no mention of online voting in their manifestos, aside from plans by the Labour Party to introduce online voting for trade unions.
The Conservative Party manifesto can be downloaded here.