If we want people to vote we need to modernise the process

There’s been a lot in the media this week about the poor voting turnout at UK elections and an initiative to try and enthuse the under 25s to register to be able to vote after it was revealed a significant proportion of them have not. Meanwhile there are those who point to the fact that people once risked their lives here to get the vote and in some countries this is still happening. So the argument goes that we should make voting compulsory with a fine for those who don’t bother. Other theories suggest it is public disenchantment with politicians- especially after the expenses scandal- that had contributed to voter apathy. While all of this has merit surely the real issue that is preventing a higher turnout is the antiquated method by which we exercise our democracy?
Exciting isn't it?

Basically not a lot has changed in over a hundred years. You are obliged to go to one particular polling station which is often not that accessible or close. Once inside your name is ticked off on a paper record and you then complete your vote with pencil and paper in a temporary wooden booth. The ballot paper is folded and stuffed into a box- these boxes then have to be taken to a central location where they are counted by hand into the early hours. When you consider just how many advances every other aspect of modern life has made this seems comically restrictive and creaky. It’s no wonder people don’t bother; in fact there are stats to support the fact that some people won’t even bother to vote if it’s raining on polling day!
Technology exists to change all this but what does not appear to exist is the will to do it. It sort of suits the political parties to luxuriate in a system that allows them to get away with policies that people would oppose if they were aware of them. It reinforces the convention of either a Conservative or Labour government, with the occasional coalition. This is really not how the mechanism of our voting system should work in 2014.
Imagine how it could work. For a start you could vote on your phone or online at any time during polling day via a secure voting site. You will already have received candidates manifesto material by this method if you’ve chosen to. Instead of staid party political broadcasts being restricted to broadcast television and the iPlayer they would appear everywhere but in styles that suit the platform on which they are shown. If you did choose to go and vote at a polling station you’d be able to go to any one because all would have a digital electoral register and you’d vote electronically on a tablet. After 10pm the results would be available swiftly because software would have been counting them all day as people voted. It could even do the graphs for us.
Some or all of these measures- and ones I’ve probably not thought of- would surely encourage more people to vote because in the end elections do affect all of us whether we vote or not.

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