Thursday, 27 March 2014

Would e-voting encourage the young to vote?

In the light of the March 2014 budget, I recently blogged on the potential impact of pensions reforms - something that a typical young person is highly unlikely to have ever thought about - on the lifetime earnings and tax deductions faced by the young generation whose wages (through income tax) are going to pay for this.
KEY STAT: 76% of pensioners vote, only 44% of under-25s vote
I mentioned the common analysis that this reform, brought in by the Conservative and Lib Dem coalition BUT eventually backed by Labour too, reflected the much higher priority the main parties give to older voters because they are so much more likely to actually cast their vote than the young. The 'grey vote' was a much used term.

Now comes news that the organisation which advises the government on how well or otherwise our democracy's voting system is functioning, the Electoral Commission, has also stated that we need reforms to close this growing voting gap between young and old: 76% v 44% respectively.

Here's the Guardian article in full:
The UK should consider allowing internet voting in elections because the current system risks appearing alien and outdated to an increasingly disenfranchised younger generation, the election watchdog has said.
Launching a review of modern voting, the head of the Electoral Commission, Jenny Watson, warned that the state of the electoral system was "not an issue that can stay on the slow track any longer".The long-term trend of falling voter turnout was particularly marked among young people, she said.
Watson said the election watchdog would examine a range of ways to make voting more accessible, including the "radical" option of internet voting and US-style same-day registration for those not on the electoral roll.
"Whether it is the ability to register to vote on the day of the election, or voters being able to use any polling station in their constituency, or the introduction of advance voting, or even more radical options such as e-voting, we plan to look at a variety of options, assessing how they will help citizens engage more effectively," she said.
Watson said online registration was welcome but did not add up to an ambitious, comprehensive modernisation strategy.
With some polls showing 76% of pensioners voting compared with 44% of eligible under-25s, the Electoral Commission said more could be done to make the system more reflective of wider society.
"By doing so we could by proxy help address some of the issues with turnout, particular amongst an increasingly disenfranchised younger generation," Watson said. "Unless our electoral system keeps pace with the way many voters live the rest of their lives – where the way they bank and the way they shop has been transformed – it risks being seen as increasingly alien and outdated, particularly to young voters as they use it for the first time."
She said critics should not see change as a move towards making the electoral system like The X Factor, as society must make sure voting was seen as a "serious and important civic act".
A Cabinet Office spokesman said: "The government is always looking at how our electoral system can modernise – that's why we are bringing in online registration and introducing individual electoral registration this summer.
"Technology changes fast and there is always more that can be done to make voting accessible, but it is the government's primary concern to ensure the effective delivery of elections."
What do you think? Would YOU be more likely to vote if you could do it online? Remember, 16 year-olds have been given the right to vote in the Scottish referendum in 2015, and one of the big three parties (Labour) has said it would look at extending this for general elections too, so the issue of voting might not be so distant after all...

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