The Electoral Reform Society's Lewis Baston and Ken Ritchie have released an excellent report 'Turning out or turning off?' which examines the issues surrounding political disengagement, particularly as expressed through low voter turnout. It's a really great piece, easy to read, well informed and it covers all the main issues from compulsory voting to the role of the media.
They argue that e-voting should continue to be gently piloted but that the 2006 target for an electronic general election should abandoned. Hurrah!
The best idea in the report, in my view, is that major election days should be public holidays. Let's have a sense of occasion… marching bands, flag waving, fun fairs, fancy dress – the works. Then people will know that the election is happening, that it's important and that loads of people care because they're out there celebrating their vote.
As the report says…
Some have argued that in Britain we work too hard and should have more public holidays. If we are to move in this direction, surely there is a case for not more bank holidays but for elections holidays – a day off work giving people time to exercise their democratic rights.
Not only would this be fun… but we wouldn't need to create e-voting or postal voting systems for busy people, we could all relax and walk together to our polling station. Who's in?
The report can be downloaded from the ERS website [PDF]