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EACEA National Policies Platform


5. Participation

5.9 E-participation

Last update: 27 January 2021

LAST MODIFIED ON: 14/10/2020

The introduction of Individual Electoral Registration in June 2014 (replacing registration by the head of household) made it possible for people to register to vote online for the first time. According to a 2016 report from the Electoral Commission, the online registration service has been particularly popular among some of those groups who are typically under-registered, such as young people.

There is no provision for online voting in the UK, although the issue is discussed periodically. But a target of the House of Commons’ Commission on Digital Democracy is to secure online voting as an option for voters by 2020. Additionally, in the Welsh Programme for Government, Taking Wales Forward 2016-2021, the government make specific commitment to taking action to increase voter registration and ‘explore how digital technology can enhance voter participation.’ 

#Ask the Speaker, (formerly known as Skype the Speaker), was launched in May 2016. It 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.

The use of online platforms for consultations is common (see ‘Formal mechanisms of consultation’).

There is an all-age system of e-petitions, without any residency requirements, through the National Assembly for Wales, as well as access to the UK Parliament’s system (see this section in the description for England).

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 Cardiff University, 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 18-25 year olds not at university.