In 1950, 84% of the electorate turned out to vote but only 65% did so in 2010. A survey of first-time voters carried out for Radio 1, just before the last election, reported that 30% did not believe their vote would count and 20% felt they did not know enough about politics to make a decision. Despite these comments, however, more than half claimed they would vote if they could do so online or using text messaging. And, from the 15.5 million votes cast during the last series of the X Factor, we know young people like voting.
So can politics be revitalised simply by installing better voting technology? My answer is ‘yes’ if politics is defined as – and limited to – voting for a government every five or so years but ‘no’ if it lives up to its true mission. Politics is about ‘people power’ and must surely encompass groups of citizens taking collective decisions on behalf of their society based on justice, equality, fairness, safety, sustainability and the need for cohesion.
Professor Peter Mortimore OBE, Director of the Institute of Education (1994-2000) Spring 2011