Government inaction costs votes of 1.1M young people in referendum

London, United Kingdom - July 1, 2016 – New research by election technology firm Smartmatic and WebRoots Democracy illustrates the link between low youth turnout in elections and the UK’s outdated voting system.  A survey found 45% of 18-24 year olds and 28% of 25-34 year olds who did not vote in the referendum said they would have been more likely to do so if they had been able to vote online,  prompting calls from youth groups for immediate reforms to the UK voting system.

Based on population and turnout, the Smartmatic and WebRoots’ results revealed an estimated  502,000 18-24 year olds and 666,000  of 25-24 year olds would have voted if they could have voted online.

•    Nearly three quarters of 18-24 year olds and two thirds of 25-34 year olds voted to Remain
•    Polls have suggested that just over a third of 18-24 year olds and just over half 25-34 year olds actually cast their vote
•    Across the country, areas with a lower median age saw a much lower turnout
•    By contrast, 57% of 55-64 year olds and 60% of 65+ voted to Leave
•    In 2015, a ComRes survey found that 57% of disenfranchised 18-24 year olds would be more likely to vote if they could do so online

Despite an increasing number of calls to modernise the UK’s voting system, successive governments have delayed moves to make the voting system more accessible to young people. The Speaker’s Commission on Digital Democracy concluded last year that online voting should be available from 2020 yet the Government has not taken steps to make this a reality.  

Lord Mark Malloch-Brown, Chairman of Smartmatic, said, “We will lose a generation of young voters if we don’t modernise our centuries-old voting system. This Government shot itself in the foot by effectively suppressing the youth vote in the referendum and missing chances to introduce online voting. All parties need to learn from this and bring in a modern voting system that makes sense to a generation at ease with technology. The technology exists, we just need political will.”

In light of the referendum, a collection of independent organisations including the National Union of Students, WebRoots Democracy and Bite the Ballot have written an open letter  calling on the Government to “act now to upgrade our voting system.”

Areeq Chowdhury, Founder and Chief Executive of WebRoots Democracy, said, “Young people are underrepresented in the UK. They may only be 20% of the current population, but they are 100% of the future one.

In the past four general elections turnout amongst 18-24 year olds has been the lowest of all age groups. That trend repeated itself yet again in the EU referendum. An out-dated voting system has contributed to a referendum result which has far reaching consequences for the UK and especially for young people who will have to live with the outcome for decades. It’s time that we upgraded to the 21st century and had a democratic system fit for the digital age.”

Youth groups have issued an open letter supporting the call for the introduction of electronic voting. The letter signed by the National Union of Students, WebRoots Democracy, Bite the Ballot, MyLifeMySay and Voting Counts says, “Online voting would have given young people a choice of how to vote, making it easier and more relevant to their lifestyles. Young people want this. Surveys show that young people would be much more likely to vote if they could so online.”