ity the local elections, overshadowed again. Last year it was the EU referendum, this year it’s a general election. Voters will make the short walk to a polling station on Thursday more out of duty than of passion. Because information is so sparse on these elections, voters will cast their ballots without truly knowing what or who they are voting for. The UK will miss yet another opportunity to improve our trust in politicians, to boost our sense of being engaged in political decisions and to strengthen our belief in our ability to create change. Any potential “Brexit bump” in political interest and awareness is unlikely: the Hansard Society’s recent audit of political engagement shows interest in, and knowledge of, politics falling to around 50%. Just 31% of citizens say they are satisfied with our system of governance.
Our democracy is being held back by our inability to grasp the transformational opportunities that digital technology provides. This does not mean we should vote via our smartphones. But we should be able to find information on elections, candidates and results easily.
Part of the problem is the UK’s election infrastructure, which has changed little since the Victorian age. Elections are run by almost 400 local authorities, each of which holds and maintains the local information on elections, candidates and results. But voters want to be able to search one resource to get relevant information wherever they are, so there needs to be a central online source. If the data were opened to all, it could be used for inexpensive, scalable and targeted digital information. Meanwhile, millions are spent on sending physical poll cards, which have no information on candidates or on where voters should go to find out more.