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Digital democracy: UK missing millions of digital voters

Last month, Rishi Sunak called a General Election to take place on the 4th July. Polls are predicting potentially record numbers of new voters to take to the polling stations.

But with our high-speed internet, why do we still use pen and paper? What would happen if the UK offered an online alternative to going to your local polling station?

We ran a survey with polling company, OnePoll of 2,000 adults in the UK to find out.

Who wants an online vote?

Our survey showed that 15% are currently not intending to cast their vote on the 4th of July, with the 18-24 age category the least engaged.

However, an online voting system would encourage 57% of 18-24s who are unsure about voting to engage with the General Election. In total, 72% of apathetic voters would use an online alternative, brining in an additional 4.9 million new voters.

Table 1: Apathetic voters switched on by an online voting system by age

Age Not planning or not sure to vote

Would use an online vote

18-24 26% 57%
25-34 19% 86%
35-44 15% 73%
45-54 12% 72%
55-64 14% 61%
65+ 10% 73%

Table 2: Apathetic voters switched on by an online voting system by region

Region Not planning or not sure to vote Would use an online vote
London 15% 87%
West Midlands 14% 87%
Northern Ireland 8% 82%
North East 13% 72%
North West 14% 71%
South East 16% 70%
East Midlands 20% 69%
Yorkshire and the Humber 18% 67%
Scotland 13% 62%
South West 13% 62%
Wales 20% 62%
East of England 12% 52%

Looking at apathetic voters by region, London and the West Midlands would be most to vote if an online vote was available.

The East of England wasn’t as sure, but offering an online vote would still convert over half of apathetic voters.

Which parties would benefit most from an online vote?

So how would an online voting system affect our who’s in charge of parliament? Because of the current landscape of voting intent and many predicting a Labour landslide victory, an online vote wouldn’t be powerful enough to change an outcome in this General Election.

Plaid Cymru and The Green Party would benefit the most from an online election solution. Increasing their total number of votes by 27% and 14% respectively.

31% of new voters are unsure about which party they would vote for presently, which is understandable if they haven’t actively been deliberating which choice would be for them.

Table 3: Predicted poll for UK General Election with online voting

Party Predicted vote New votes from online Overall Increase in total votes
Labour Party 33% 16% 31% 6%
Conservative Party 18% 11% 17% 7%
Reform UK 11% 6% 10% 7%
Liberal Democrat Party 9% 5% 8% 7%
The Green Party of England and Wales 5% 5% 5% 14%
Scottish National Party 2% <1% 2% 3%
Plaid Cymru 1% 1% 1% 27%
Democratic Unionist Party 1% 1% 1% 11%
Other 2% 1% 2% 9%
Prefer not to say 3% 9% 4% 38%
Not sure 17% 43% 20% 30%

What are the benefits of an online voting system?

Accessibility is the main benefit of introducing an online voting system. People would theoretically be able to log on from anywhere in the world (given they have an internet connection) to cast their vote.

Registered at the wrong address

There are up to 8 million people registered at the wrong address. If you turn up to the wrong polling station, you won’t be able to vote in the election. For some, they may have not moved far and be willing to put up with a longer journey, but if you moved to a whole new area, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to get to your old polling station.

Disabled voters that may find it difficult to reach a polling station

Disabled voters can nominate anyone over the age of 18 to accompany them to the station to help them vote, and all polling stations must provide access for people in wheelchairs or for people who have difficulty using steps.

However, there is a 5 percentage point voter gap in Europe. Offering an online vote can help further remove barriers for people who may find it difficult to reach a polling station or who may not want to.

Threat and intimidation

Outside established democracies, it’s been reported that people have been victims of threat and intimidation. This can be a serious barrier for discouraging people to participate in an election.

The British weather

Elections are usually called in the spring or autumn, or this year, summer to encourage as many people to make their way to the polling stations. While this year's election clashes with a big summer of sport and school holidays, it’s unlikely bad weather will impact turnout. For every CM of rainfall, turnout can decline by 0.95%.

Invalid ballots

It’s rare, but some ballots may be invalid if it’s unclear on which candidate the vote was intended for. And some people actively choose to spoil their ballot paper. An online voting system would prevent these scenarios happening.

Do any countries do an online vote for their election?

Estonia is the only country that has used and proved an online voting system can work. In the 2019 Riigikogu elections, 47% used the online system to cast their vote for their national parliament.

What are the drawbacks of an online voting system?


Currently, we’re only looking to add to what we have, and not remove the current electoral system. The drawback of bringing a vote online is security.

The UK’s current system, is fairly fool-proof, but an online vote requires a server which would be an obvious target for a hacker. This would make a vulnerability to hacking at a larger scale.

Server going down

With so many people accessing the same webpage in a relatively short time frame, it could cause a surge in traffic, overloading the system, ultimately, bringing it down.
Is there anything stopping the UK from offering an online vote?

Broadband speed

The majority of the UK has access to decent broadband, that will easily be able to handle surfing the internet for an online vote. However, there are thousands of households that can’t achieve broadband speed of 2Mb, which would struggle with the most basic tasks in a single person household.

Digital divide

Not everyone in the UK has access to the internet or the digital skills to get online. 6% of UK homes don’t access the internet, with older and financially vulnerable most likely to remain digitally excluded.

9% of homes, struggle to afford their broadband bill and 1 million homes have disconnected their broadband as a result.

Broadband social tariffs are available, for people on benefits and Universal Credit. However, only 5% of eligible households have signed up to these cheaper tariffs.

Not all parties would want an online vote

For an online vote to happen, it would have to be approved in parliament. The Conservative Party, have been the primary governing party since 2010. As seen in our results in table 1.0, because of their voter demographic, an online would not benefit the party.

  • Methodology

    Broadband Genie research into an online vote for a general election was conducted by OnePoll from 11th - 14th June 2024 using a survey of 2,000 UK adults weighted to be nationally representative.

    4.6 million new voters. 14% of respondents are unsure or do not intend to vote in the General Election.
    There are 45,219,492 over 18’s in the UK
    14% of 45,219,492 = 6,375,948 UK eligible voters

    Respondents which were not sure or not intending (14% / 6,375,948) to vote were asked ‘if the UK were to move to an online voting system, who would you vote for in the General Election, if anyone? 72% would use an online voting system. 72% of 6,375,948 = 4,590,683 new voters.

    Population statistics were taken from LG Inform.

Meet the author:

Broadband Expert

Alex came on board in October 2016 and in that time has risen to Broadband Genie’s resident broadband expert. For the last 7 years, he has appeared all over the UK press, giving expert advice about anything and everything related to broadband.

Specialist subject: Fighting the consumer's corner on all things broadband.

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