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EACEA National Policies Platform


5. Participation

5.9 E-participation

Last update: 22 January 2021

LAST MODIFIED ON: 11/11/2020 - 00:30


Online voter registration was introduced in June 2014. This was intended to make the process of registration quicker and easier and to increase registration by under-represented groups, including young people. The system is compatible with all platforms, including smartphones and tablets. In August 2015, data on the operation of the new individual electoral registration system, which allowed individuals to register online, issued by the Cabinet Office for the UK as a whole, showed that the age group making most use of the service was 25 to 34. In the June 2017 UK General Election, the Electoral Commission reported that more than 96% of applications to register were made using the online service, and 69 per cent of online applications received between 18 April to 22 May 2017, were from people under 34 years old. 

At the time of writing (September 2020) there is no provision for online voting in elections and referendums in the UK. #Ask the Speaker, launched in 2016, gives schools across the UK the opportunity to take part in a live Question and Answer session with the Speaker of the UK Parliament’s House of Commons, live from their classrooms. Priority is given to schools in Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland; and in England, specifically, the North East, North West, South West and Yorkshire, and the Humber.

Responses to consultations can commonly be made online (see ‘Formal Mechanisms of Consultation’).

There is an online facility for all British citizens and UK residents to create or sign a petition, supported by five other people. Petitions gaining 10,000 signatures get a response from the Government, while those gaining 100,000 signatures will be considered for a debate in Parliament. Petitions can be shared through social media or email.

The Speaker of the House of Commons’ Commission on Digital Democracy encourages participation through various social media platforms. There are also online forums, such as the national online forum held with student representatives from eight Universities in 2014 to discuss the challenges of digital democracy. 

The Commission on Digital Democracy, which is particularly interested in the role of young people in the UK democracy, reported in January 2015. Its recommendations included that the House of Commons should take further steps to improve active involvement by young people, which might include:

  • encouraging young people to participate in the e-petitions system
  • youth issue-focused debates which involve young people and MPs.

It also recommended that the House of Commons, as part of its professional communications strategy should pilot and test new online activities, working with national and local partners, to target and engage specific groups who are not currently engaged in the democratic process. One of the potential target groups identified was 18 to 25 year olds not attending university. 

Furthermore, in a speech, made by the Leader of the Commons, titled, Strengthening Our Parliamentary Democracy, she outlined that e-democracy could be a means to encourage young people to be engage and participate in politics because of the digital age we live in: over half of 12 to 15 year olds interested in the news, receive their updates from social media, compared with only 17% who read a newspaper.