Government turns to online tools to encourage higher voter turnout

digital vote

The process of registering to vote can now be done online, with a new system launched today by the Minister of State for Cities and the Constitution Greg Clark.

Registration will now reportedly take just three minutes to complete, with a name, address, date of birth and National Insurance number required.

The service has been tested on real users and is compatible across platforms including smartphones and tablets. The updated online service has been designed to provide greater convenience and efficiency, and - it is hoped - will encourage more people to vote as time goes on.

Speaking on the new registration process, Clark said: "This service will bring voter registration into the 21st century and make it easier, simpler and faster for people to register to vote. Putting public services online is saving taxpayers money and giving people access to services when and where they need them."

This is just the latest move towards easier registration, with the old household registration system being replaced by Individual Electoral Registration (IER), which could mean 80 per cent of people are automatically added to the register without even needing to apply. They will be automatically transferred to a new register using existing records.

The new online system could encourage many of the UK's reluctant voters to get involved. It has also been touted as an obstacle to fraudsters, preventing the registration of "ghost voters" casting ballots via post.

"IER will prevent fraud by enabling government to verify that everyone on the register is who they say they are, resulting in greater trust in the legitimacy and fairness of elections," a Cabinet Office statement confirmed.

The move could also, potentially, foreshadow a move towards UK citizens one day being able to cast their votes online.

When internet voting systems were introduced across the USA in 2012, experts warned the process was inherently insecure, with one computer scientist calling it "an insane thing to do" from a security standpoint. However, in 2014, the 19 states that have introduced online voter registration are reporting the transition a success.

The 20 per cent of people in the UK who will not be automatically transferred to the new register will be urged to sign-up by 2016 through letters and canvassing.

"Labour welcomes the launch of online voter registration and we hope this encourages more people to sign up to vote," said Stephen Twigg, Shadow Minister for Constitutional and Political reform.

"Under-registration remains a huge problem in our country especially amongst younger people. Around half of those aged between 18 and 24 are not registered to vote, compared to just 6 per cent of those above the age of 65."

Chairman of the Electoral Commission, Jenny Watson, said: "People deserve more choice about how they register to vote and online registration gives them a quick, easy and convenient option."

Caroline Preece

Caroline has been writing about technology for more than a decade, switching between consumer smart home news and reviews and in-depth B2B industry coverage. In addition to her work for IT Pro and Cloud Pro, she has contributed to a number of titles including Expert Reviews, TechRadar, The Week and many more. She is currently the smart home editor across Future Publishing's homes titles.

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