LAST MODIFIED ON: 12/20/2020 - 15:51
Online voter registration was introduced in September 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 system, 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.
There is no provision for electronic voting in either national or local elections. But a target of the House of Commons’ Commission on Digital Democracy is to secure online voting as an option for voters by 2020. No update to these targets has been released at the time of writing.
In the Scottish Youth Parliament 2015 and 2017 national elections, young people were able to cast their vote either by submitting a paper ballot or through a secure e-voting platform facilitated by Young Scot, the national youth information and citizenship charity, depending on the method chosen by their local authority. 80,147 votes were cast in the 2017 election. In the 2019 election this decreased to 70,953 votes, all of which were through Young Scot’s e-voting platform.
For government consultations, the use of online platforms is common (see ‘Formal mechanisms of consultation’). The Scottish Government's Digital Engagement Team runs the Dialogue website, a platform which allows members of the public to submit their ideas and comments about a variety of policy challenges posted on the platform. This includes policy fields such as, open government, health and social care, the culture strategy, and the digital strategy. Most recently this tool was used to hold a public conversation on COVID-19 and a potential framework for decision-making. This consultation closed in October 2020. You can read about it here.
For petitions to the Scottish Parliament, a system of online petitions is open to all individuals and submissions may be made in any language. Petitions are then considered by the Public Petitions Committee.
The Speaker of the House of Commons’ Commission on Digital Democracy encourages participation through various social media. There are also online forums, such as the student national online forum held with student representatives from eight Universities, including the University of Strathclyde, in 2014 to discuss the challenges of digital democracy.
The Commission, 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 at university.
See ‘Young People’s Participation in Policy-Making’ for transparency in decision-making.