There has been a lot of talk about the low voter turnout at last week’s EU and local elections. With a showing of 36 per cent, according to EU figures—significantly lower than the European average of 43.1 per cent—roughly two-in-three UK adults didn’t cast their vote. There are many factors contributing to this, but in the context of a longer-term fall in voter turnout it has led to calls for the introduction of online voting to make it easier and more accessible.
Eventually, it seems, the process will go this way—some countries are already working on introducing online voting—although there are concerns about fraud and anonymity that still need to be addressed. The Electoral Commission, the UK election watchdog, has suggested a number of other measures that could help, such as allowing voters to use any polling station within their constituency and introducing US-style same-day registration for those who have not registered to vote in advance.
In the meantime, though, there is one simple change that might help increase access to voting: holding elections on the weekend instead of, as is traditional, on a Thursday.
The last time an election was not held on a Thursday in the UK was 1931, although it’s not clear how or why it became the traditional polling day. Almost all European countries hold elections on the weekend: of the 28 taking part in last week’s European Parliament election, the UK was one of only three—along with Ireland and the Netherlands—to hold their poll during the working week. Around the world, Sunday seems to be the most common day for elections, and in some countries—such as South Korea—election day is always a public holiday to enable as many people as possible to vote.
A friend working as a junior doctor at a hospital outside London reported that many of the nurses had not been able to cast their vote last week due to long working hours. This is particularly a problem for those with long commutes who work far from their local polling station. One woman I spoke to, Catherine Pryce, who commutes from Brighton to London, told me it was “disappointing” that she hadn’t been able to cast her vote. “I leave the house at 6.50am… I work in marketing and advertising so sometimes late nights are required. I was stuck on the train and couldn’t make it” to the polling station in time, she said.…