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Early Voting

Volume 494: debated on Thursday 18 June 2009

3. What recent discussions the Electoral Commission has had with the Ministry of Justice on proposals for the introduction of early voting in elections. (280572)

The Electoral Commission informs me that it believes that giving people the option of voting in person in advance of polling day would improve access to the electoral process. In May 2009, the chair of the Electoral Commission wrote to the Minister of State, Ministry of Justice, the right hon. Member for North Swindon (Mr. Wills), reiterating the commission’s view on early voting in the context of a wider strategy for the future of elections. It also responded to the Government’s 2008 consultation on weekend voting.

Two weeks ago, voter apathy and electoral disengagement hit an all-time low; turnout plummeted to 16 per cent. in my region of Yorkshire. I recently met the Minister of State, to discuss my plans to introduce early voting in the UK. There was early voting in the recent American election, in which voters flocked to the polls over a two-week period. Clearly, one day’s access to the polls is not enough in today’s society. Will the Electoral Commission therefore discuss plans to introduce early voting?

The Electoral Commission informs me that it is not opposed in principle to moving polling day to the weekend. However, it does not support such a change at present because there is a lack of compelling evidence to show that such an arrangement would be more convenient or accessible for electors, and increase turnout. As has been said, there are a number of reasons voters do not turn up to vote at elections, many of which relate to the political parties and our conduct in the House. All of us—not only the Electoral Commission—should consider how to increase voter turnout in this country.