At the time of writing it is not known whether next up in the Brexit saga is a referendum or a general election. My hope is for the former as I don’t want a general election and a potential five year government decided on whose Brexit solution is the most popular.
However, we do need to get more of the electorate voting. In the new millennium an average of only 64% of the electorate voted at the 5 general elections. This means almost 17 million (at current levels) did not vote. In the last 5 general elections of the 20th century, the average turnout was 75%. That is 5 million lost voters.
Some people don’t want to vote, some don’t get around to it, some are unable to vote due to sudden illness, personal or work issues, and some actually forget all about until they see the news the day after. A bit too late then. Yes we have the postal vote but that has to be arranged in advance. Interestingly the number of postal votes allowed in the last general election suggests that only half the electorate actually voted at a polling station.
So what can be done. The Conservative party members had 4 weeks to vote in a new prime minister whilst the general public has 15 hours on one single day to vote in 650 MPs. Something wrong there. We need to increase these voting hours. I suggest a Monday as the main voting day but allow further voting the next day (or even longer). I appreciate that some buildings used as polling stations may only be available on a single day but others would be available for longer. The polling cards could state the secondary polling station to be used if the original date is missed.
Yes there would be a cost to this. A general election or referendum polling day costs about £150 million and I would estimate each extra day to run at £100 million at most. There would only be one count at the end of the polling. Considering the importance of the occasion and looking at money squandered on vanity projects by the government this seems good value.
The more people who cast their vote means that the views of the electorate are more accurately represented.