Offerman Consulting
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Voting calling for modernisation and professionalisation

Author: Adrian Offerman

UK citizens feel frustrated, ambivalent and anxious before and during voting in General Election, while after voting they mostly feel proud, according to a qualitative study conducted by the UK Government Digital Service (GDS) the day after the General Elections last May. There is plenty of room for improvement in education about the electoral process, in the process itself, and in voter experience, the study concludes.

GDS asked citizens about their experience before, during and after voting. About half of the participants were young people who were mostly voting for the first time. Due to the selection process, they were likely to be more engaged in the democratic process.

A rite of passage

Young people found casting their first vote to be both exciting and important; they considered it to be a rite of passage to adulthood. At the same time, they found the process itself confusing, outdated, and disappointing. Furthermore, it was unclear whether the people taking exit polls and wearing party rosettes were officials or not. They were said to be pushy and intimidating, causing anxiety among voters.

The registration process was another cause of confusion: Some people were not registered or did not know where to register, or even that registration was important. Confirmation messages and polling cards were lost, both in transit and on the voters' side. Polling cards sometimes sent voters to the wrong place, and polling officials refused to put up signs.

Finally, most participants indicated they had a hard time finding useful information to help them make a decision as to who they would vote for. Others were not amused to discover new candidates in the polling booth at the moment of voting. Voting in the general election and in local elections at the same time was another source of confusion, especially since the two had different methods of voting.

Plenty of room for improvement

This study raises a lot of questions for further research, and it clearly shows that there is a plenty of room for improvement in education about the electoral process, in the process itself, and in voter experience.