A total of 46.9 million people were registered to vote in the 2017 General Election. But some believe that the paper ballot system (which has been in place since the late nineteenth century) needs some shaking up. Here are five ways in which civic entrepreneurs are trying to change the future of democracy.
1. Crowdsourced Manifestos
James Moulding, 24, is trying to hack a way of crowdsourcing a manifesto. Whilst Labour hopeful Jeremy Corbyn regularly points to an ‘internal democracy’ at play in his policy making, a crowdsourced manifesto is an altogether more radical concept. And, to an extent, it’s currently being modelled by the Taiwanese government, who exercise real-time consultation with its citizens using the pol.is platform. Ed Saperia, founder of Newspeak House, believes that it’s a waste of politicians’ time “putting together platforms which they hope people will support” when in fact the technology exists for their policies to be “co-created.”
2. Vote Swapping
SwapMyVote is trying to hack the inefficiency of the ‘first-past-the-post’ voting system and the apathy and low turnout which this effects. SwapMyVote’s Tom de Grunwald notes that in 2015, 74.4% of votes were not cast for the winning party. Described as a ‘radical and practical experiment’, his platform uses social media to help pair votes who want to swap, each casting each other’s preferred where it matters most.
3. Internet Voting
If nothing else, polling days are widely remembered by millennial votes as the last time they held a pencil. Some believe that a process which requires you to eschew the augmented and virtual spheres and actually turn up in a building to put a cross on a piece of paper is something of a ‘barrier’ to political engagement, particularly amongst the young. Advocates of the online vote look to Estonia, who are the first country to permanently establish national internet voting. The uptake has been significant over the last 12 years: in 2005, 1.9% of votes were cast online; at the last election the number was over 30%.
4. ‘Selfie’ Electing
Smartmatic have developed a new app which allows people to vote using facial recognition to create a digital identity which is then used to cast a remote vote from anywhere. The current paper ballot system has been in place since 1872. But supporters of developments such as Smartmatic believe that this change to the system would enfranchise a new pool of voters, to whom politicians would need to answer.
5. Polling Station Finders
Democracy Club established that one of the most common questions asked by voters on elections days is ‘where should I vote?’ That’s why they’ve created their Where Do I Vote? Service, a fully-featured, embeddable API which removes the need for voters to know their way around local government. According to their website, voters don’t need to know which ward or constituency they’re assigned to; they simply enter their postcode and the platform returns the correct polling station for their property.
NB: If gamification is more your thing, you may wish to give Corbyn Run a go!