Submission to the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee: Voter Engagement

Unlock Democracy surveyed its members and supporters on a selection of the recommendations in the committee’s report on voter engagement. 2,435 people took the survey; the results are summarised below. Unlock Democracy has not mediated these responses in any way and they do not necessarily reflect the views of the organisation.  

The franchise should be extended to 16 and 17-year-olds

Agree    51.5%
Disagree    38.0%
Neither/Don't Know    10.4%

Comments included:

“It is said that here political immaturity precludes participation; I would argue that participation develops political maturity.”

“As part of a general harmonisation of age related issues.”

“Yes I believe that young people, who at the moment are just not represented should have the right to vote while they are still learning and should have the chance to learn about politics while still at school. However there needs to be a mechanism to ensure that they are not pressurised to vote for someone else's views. There are now several online `vote match' type questionnaires but the chance for young people to engage in proper debate is urgently needed”

“Whilst there are many very able 16-17 year olds, equally there are a very high %age of those who have no political engagement. This is a gimmick too far.”

“The voting age should depend on the legal recognition of adulthood”

The UK should introduce online voting

Agree    52.3%
Disagree    34.9%
Neither/Don't Know    12.8%

Comments included:

“For ALL major decisions, not just elections.”

“This must be accompanied by online election addresses by parties and candidates, and candidates' record in public life: what posts held, attendance record if appropriate, any issues (e.g. claiming for duck ponds or moats)”

“Online voting could be a step forward, but I suspect that accessibility of polling stations isn't the biggest obstacle to voters.”

“There is a strong argument in favour for the elderly and those with disabilities. I do not agree with introducing online voting for the able - it trivialises the act of voting.”

“Democracy is worth a walk to the polling booth once every few years.”

“If voting gets allowed on the internet i am scared that the system could be hacked or phantom votes could happen”

Voting should be made legally compulsory

Agree    43.6%
Disagree    46.8%
Neither/Don't Know    9.6%

Comments included:

“Definitely not if people feel they have no one they actually want to vote for as only 2 parties ever win and they are basically the same and run by corporations and follow crony capitalist policies then I can understand why they wouldn't want to vote”

“If people aren't motivated to vote under their own willpower, what kind of decisions will they make under duress? Also, how would we go about enforcing this? The UK is a land where one should be free to forge their own path. When we start enforcing government doctrine, we fundamentally change what we, as a people, stand for.”

“At the last election 34.9% abstained - that is enough to sway the final vote in favour of the majority . Those with something to Gain will vote - we need to remove the lethargy and get a true representation of opinion”

“In other countries it has led to resentment votes, and does not give a true picture.”

“Voter turnout is a direct measure of a government's legitimacy - not voting is therefore an extremely important right. Politicians need to work harder to get people to turn up at the polls if they want higher turnouts.”

“Strongly disagree. As a dual national, I have the legal duty to vote on a compulsory basis: this does not help the quality of voters' decision-making, on the contrary. It creates problems if the voter is away, ill or just forgets - you then have to go to an office, pay a fine etc. - very alienating.”

“Personally, I always attend the polling station (even if sometimes to actively abstain by spoiling my paper) - but if it were compulsory I would publicly refuse to vote at all, on principle. I would never be involved in any civic duty which involved compulsion and coercion. Furthermore, If people can't be bothered to go to a polling station once in a while, they don't deserve to be taken account of! If it's important that more people vote, it should be because they see the value in it and want to.”

“Make it meaningful to people (e.g. proper proportional representation) and they will vote.”

“How could this possibly be enforced, The police are already over-worked”

“I have changed my long-held objection to this! I now think that if politicians knew that everyone would be voting they might find it less easy to demonise sections of the population (to cover their own failures).”

“only in combination with it being a public holiday and online voting being introduced - otherwise it will disproportionately affect the already disadvantaged, eg. those that work in low paid / irregular work with long hours.”

“Provided there is a "None of the above" box on every ballot paper.”

“Absolutely, if you dont want to vote you can either spoil your ballot paper or recieve a very large fine +£100 at least.”

The ballot paper should include a “none of the above” option

Agree    80.1%
Disagree    15.0%
Neither/Don't Know    4.9%

Comments included:

“Although I struggle to envision what would occur if the majority of the electorate should mark their ballot papers as such, one would hope that parliament would take notice and work harder to discourage voter apathy. It's an ineligant solution - some will act without thinking but I believe the sentiment would hopefully create enough of an impact to institute a change.”

“Either this, or spoilt ballots over a certain count should be considered equivalent to a "none of the above" option. There is certainly a problem with the election candidates available not representing the interests of the electorate. I have spoiled my ballot in the past as a futile protest against the candidates on the paper, none of whom have made any effort to make me aware of their policies or represent my views in any way.”

“This is a MUST to engage those who disagree with the established parties, voting system, Government, etc. People must be given the opportunity to voice their disapproval of the available options/system.”

“This would be another step to encourage people to vote.”

“I can not see the practical point other than as a gesture.”

“Definitely – at present, it is not possible to indicate that you do not support any of the candidates, so it is not possible to distinguish between people who are politically engaged but do not vote because they do not support any of the candidates, and those who do not vote out of apathy.”