Last month we took a look at the idea of online voting in the wake of the European Union elections and a somewhat dubious critique of e-voting in Estonia. I was minded of that again today when talking to Greg Clark, Minister of State for the Cabinet Office (Cities and Constitution), as he officially launched an online overhaul of how the UK electorate goes about registering its right to vote. The current UK mechanism for this process is incredibly archaic. As things stand, the head of the household – whatever that means in this day and age! – has to fill out a paper form to send back to the local authority, specifying which members of that household are entitled to vote. Clearly this is a system that is (a) ludicrously out of touch and (b) wide open to abuse and deliberate disenfranchisement of individuals.
Now, electoral administration isn’t an easy task. Cast an eye in Syria’s direction or Ukraine’s. Remember the sorry sight last year of people being turned away from polling stations in Zimbabwe. And before anyone gets too smug, we haven’t forgotten those hanging chads from Florida 13 years ago!
Still hanging after all these years
In the US, it’s estimated that approximately 51 million eligible Americans – almost one in four – are not registered to vote. More than that, according to the Pew Center on the States, approximately 24 million voter registrations in the US are no longer valid or are significantly inaccurate, with more than 1.8 million dead people still eligible to vote and 2.75 million people with registrations in more than one state.
In the UK, around 85% of people who are eligible to vote are already registered, which is a good base. But almost half of those in social housing and private rented housing aren’t currently on the register, while 43 years after the vote was given to 18 year olds, almost half of young people aged 18 to 24 aren’t registered to vote.