UK Politics

Labour pledges new 'democracy portal' to inform voters

A woman walks her dog past a polling station in Teesside Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Labour says it would work to 'demystify the polling station'

A new website is needed to help people learn about the electoral process and decide how to vote, Labour MP Angela Eagle has said.

Information on existing government websites is fragmentary and hard to find, the frontbencher said.

Ms Eagle said Labour would create "a comprehensive democracy portal" if elected in 2015.

This would "draw together in one place all of the things you need to know before you vote", she said.

Ms Eagle, who is Labour's shadow Commons leader and chair of the party's National Policy Forum, said she had been considering voter apathy for the past year as part of a "people's politics inquiry".


In a speech to the Electoral Reform Society, a group that campaigns for the reform of the UK's voting system, she said the inquiry had concluded that a number of practical changes were needed to help to increase democratic participation.

"Labour will do more than just expect people to vote," she said. "We will do what it takes to understand their busy, high-pressured lives and understand how we can better help voting fit in with them."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Angela Eagle MP argues that online information about voting is incomplete

Firstly, the party would work to "demystify the polling station", she said, having heard that many people were not confident about the voting process and felt to embarrassed to ask for help.

This would entail teaching the basics to school children and putting more information about how to vote on polling cards.

But there was room for improvement online too, she argued.

"There are already a number of websites where people can learn more about their vote," she said.

"The Electoral Commission, Parliament and Downing Street all have online information about voting and registration. But this information is incomplete, and spread across a variety of places that you really have to seek out.

"I've been impressed by the example set by the GLA in London who run the London Elects website. It not only gives people information about how and where they vote, but also acts as a portal so people can learn what parties stand for.

"A Labour government would work to use this model to produce a comprehensive democracy portal. It would draw together in one place all of the things you need to know before you vote: who your MP is, who your local council and representatives are, how you vote, who the political parties are and what they stand for."

Councils should also email all first-time voters with a link to the portal, she said.

"Person after person I met during the inquiry just couldn't understand why when they can shop online, bank online, meet their partner online - they can't vote online," Ms Eagle continued.

It was right to consider how electronic voting could be introduced, she said, "but we can't ignore the scale of the security challenge we'd have to face".

Public sector workers should strive to register anyone not registered to vote, she added, and trials would be held to investigate whether switching polling days might increase turnout.

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