Digital Democracy Commission calls for online voting in 2020 election

People should be able to vote online by the 2020 general election, John Bercow has suggested.

The Speaker’s Commission on Digital Democracy, set up to explore how Parliament could better use digital technology, has concluded that there is  a “growing appetite” for internet voting among the public.

Bercow told BBC Radio 4: “There will be a growing appetite for online voting and that it will happen. Now I don’t mean by that that it will necessarily at any stage be compulsory to vote in that way.

"But I think that the notion that, if it can be established as secure and reliable people should have the option to vote online, will gain ground more and more and more.”

He said the 2020 poll "could be the first election in which people have the opportunity... to vote online".

The Commission also recommended the creation of an online forum to enable the public to take part in Commons debates and crowdsource questions to pose to ministers. Bercow described the possibility as “exciting”.

The report calls for an end to restrictions on members of the public using mobile phones in the public galleries in the Commons and experimenting with providing live social media coverage of Commons debates.

It also suggests that MPs who are unwell or have childcare responsibilities and cannot make it to the chamber should be able to vote electronically.

The report contains numerous suggestions on how to make the Commons more accessible to the public including simplifying parliamentary language, the use of more infographics and visual data on Parliament’s website, the introduction of a new set of online tools for drafting legislation which are easier to use and provide open data about bills and amendments and all parliamentary information being made available as open data.

Select committees were also singled out to make greater use of social media and online advertising to reach out to new audiences and raise awareness of their work. The report said they should also experiment with using digital to involve people more in committee work.

Bercow said: “For members of Parliament whilst conducting their debate, to be aware of and capable of responding to what people outside are saying, would at least start to fuse the two parts of the body politic.

“I don't know whether I would call it a chamber but the idea of there being potentially a simultaneous dialogue between chambers of Parliament and members of the public, seems to me not an idea to be afraid of at all. It's actually quite an exciting idea.”

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