Response 772875545

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1. What is your name?

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Peter Clark

Elected representatives

6. Members of Parliament are elected to represent local people’s interests in the House of Commons. How can the internet and social media help with this?

Members of Parliament should be required to have a facebook/twitter page that they must update with their activity (voting record, questions in the House of Commons etc) so that any constituents who wish to "follow" them can easily track the activities of their elected representative.

7. Does social media enhance the local link for MPs, or undermine it by involving them in more national and international discussions?

Most MPs represent more that 70000 people and aside from the occasional feature in local press (which varies in provision greatly from region to region) it is difficult for MPs to communicate with the whole electorate. Many MPs communicate with local community groups and so forth but many people particularly younger people have no involvement in such groups and many areas do not have any form of community group. Social media can give a local link where MPs can communicate directly to their electorate on a day to day basis on issues that would not necessarily get the attention of other media.

8. Use of interactive technology is increasing. Is this likely to increase pressure for more direct democracy, such as crowd-sourcing, referendums and citizens’ initiatives?

while there will be some who will use the increase of this technology to push for more direct democracy there is still no evidence that moving towards online voting would increase turnout at democratic events. Therefore more direct democracy using technology would not necessarily get more people involved in the democratic process, Police and Crime Commissioners are an example of this where people were not motivated to vote for them. Any move towards a form on online only voting would disenfranchise large numbers of older and more vulnerable people who are unable to use the internet.

9. What will democracy look like in 15 – 20 years?

Current trends suggest that people like choice and this applies to democracy as much as anything else. To maximise voting turnout and engage as many people as possible in democracy a future democracy would look to have a large number of different candidates/parties for voters to choose from. As populations get increasingly more transient and people interact less with the local communities in which they live electoral areas should get larger and be elected on a more proportional system (for example there could be 15 MPs representing the whole of South Yorkshire elected by proportional representation within that region). Candidates and political parties would need to communicate with voters to set out their policies using social media and other methods more. In our current electoral system voters can vote either in person at a polling station, by post or by proxy. In 15-20 years time online voting will need to be an option. However, the more choice of voting methods that are in place the more expensive the system is and the more it is open to fraud. Therefore I think that over time online voting should be introduced so that for the week before polling day voters can register and vote online but that period should close the day before polling day so that all polling stations can be issued with a register of everyone who is still to vote and they can vote at their polling station on polling day itself. Postal voting should be phased out after the introduction of online voting. Consideration should also be given in the planning of new housing developments to ensure that every area has a building that can be used as a polling station. Many families take their children to the polling station when they vote and those children when they grow up do the same. The polling station is a fixture of British democracy but community buildings are becoming increasingly scarce and with the traditional British polling day being on the first Thursday in May this is the week before SATS exams and schools are increasingly unwilling to close on this day.

Information about politics

10. Most people still get most of their news from television, although this seems to be changing in favour of online information. Traditional news organisations are also changing. What impact will this have on elections and democracy in general?

Increasingly people are getting more news information online and they are getting it from a wider variety of sources. People may read articles from the websites of a number of different news publications rather than all the content from a single publication. This has the advantage of people being potentially exposed to a number of different viewpoints. However, people are increasingly developing viewpoints that do not fit on the traditional left/right spectrum and do not align themselves with a particular political party. This means that with political party membership declining an parties having fewer activists willing to go door to door and visit people first hand all parties will seek more and more to get finance from donors to fund greater advertising. This trend disconnects people from politics and politicians when they need to come closer together.

11. How can online provision of information about elections be improved, including details of where to vote, how to vote and the results?

It has only just become possible to register to vote online. It is still impossible to discover if you are already registered to vote and find out where your polling station is. Due to the data protection issues associated with this I do not think a website that can tell you whether you are registered to vote and where your polling station is/whether you have a postal vote is necessary or desirable. I think that people particularly if they live in a shared house should have the option of being emailed their poll card with an interactive map of where the polling station is.

Political campaigning

12. Can we expect continuous election campaigning through digital channels – what would citizens feel about that and would it undermine or strengthen representative democracy?

Campaigning through digital channels will increase but it is nothing to be afraid of. Anyone can sign up to and post on a social network, it is free of charge. People do not mind seeing view raised on social networks that they disagree with (in fact they seem to enjoy disagreeing with them) and it might involve people in national debates and discussions which at the moment only seem to take place between the politicians and the media with the public not really involved.