|Focus||digital democracy, democratic reform, electoral reform|
WebRoots Democracy is a youth-led think tank based in London which focuses on the intersection of technology and political participation. Its aim is to "modernise, enhance, and future-proof" democracy in the United Kingdom. It produces research on digital democracy and advocates for the introduction of online voting in elections.
The current Chief Executive is Areeq Chowdhury who founded WebRoots Democracy in 2014 at the age of 21 whilst a civil servant at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. The organisation is run by volunteers and is non-partisan.
Research and publications
WebRoots Democracy has five main areas of focus: online voting; e-petitions; voter advice applications; social media regulation; and monitoring the recommendations of the Speaker's Commission on Digital Democracy. It has an Advisory Council consisting of experts from across the technology industry, academia, civil society, and politics which provides ideas and guidance over the research it undertakes.
Published in March 2015, Viral Voting: Future-proofing UK elections with an #onlinevoting option examined the benefits of online voting, the challenges faced for its implementation, and its estimated impact on voter turnout and elections. The report estimated that online voting could boost voter turnout by up to 9 million, reduce the cost-per-vote by a third, and enable voters with vision impairments to cast a secret ballot. It contains forewords by the MPs Graham Allen and Chloe Smith, as well as the General Secretary of the Trades Union Congress, Frances O'Grady.
Viral Voting was cited in a House of Commons debate on the EU Referendum Bill by Labour MP, John McDonnell. It is also cited in a Salford University research paper on trade union strike ballots.
In January 2016, Secure Voting: A guide to secure #onlinevoting in elections was published. This report focused on the key security challenges for the implementation of online voting and methods to overcome them. The report called for online voting to be introduced by the 2020 UK General Election. It contained forewords from MPs across the political spectrum: Chloe Smith, Graham Allen, Tom Brake, and Hannah Bardell. In addition, it contains a foreword by the Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow.
Secure Voting was cited widely during the parliamentary debates on the 2016 Trade Union Bill. It was also cited in a debate in the State Assembly of Jersey and in a feasibility study on internet voting by the Electoral Commission of Moldova.
To coincide with the two year anniversary of the Speaker's Commission on Digital Democracy, in January 2017, Democracy 2.0: Hitting refresh on the Digital Democracy Commission was published. It sets out a number of recommendations including the creation of a Government 'Digital Democracy Czar' and the introduction of mandatory political education in schools to help tackle challenges such as 'fake news'. It contains forewords by Emma Mulqueeny OBE and Cat Smith MP.
WebRoots Democracy has commissioned three YouGov polls related to online voting. The first two found majority support for online voting to be implemented as an option in the 2016 London Mayoral Election and the 2016 EU Referendum. The two leading candidates for London Mayor, Sadiq Khan and Zac Goldsmith, subsequently backed the campaign for online voting. Sadiq Khan had previously written about his support for online voting in a blogpost on the WebRoots Democracy website saying it was "time to drag our democracy into the 21st century."
The third poll was related to the 2016 EU Referendum. This poll found that there would have been an extra 1.2 million young voters had there been an option to vote online in the referendum.
The think tank has a 20 member Advisory Council consisting of experts from across the tech industry and civil society. Members include the television broadcasters Rick Edwards and Amy Lamé, technologists Emma Mulqueeny and Helen Milner, and the academics Dr Peter Kerr and Professor Mark Ryan.
WebRoots Democracy has a group of cross-party 'Political Ambassadors' to champion the think-tank's digital democracy cause. They are:
- Matt Warman MP (Conservatives)
- Darren Jones MP (Labour)
- Hannah Bardell MP (SNP)
- Tom Brake MP (Liberal Democrats)
- Caroline Lucas MP (Green)
- Liz Saville Roberts MP (Plaid Cymru)
- Lord Jim Knight (Labour)
- Lord Lexden OBE (Conservatives)
- "About". WebRoots Democracy. 2014-04-21. Retrieved 2016-12-29.
- "The Campaign for Online Voting Starts Here..." The Huffington Post. Retrieved 2016-12-29.
- "Advisory Council". WebRoots Democracy. 2016-10-11. Retrieved 2016-12-29.
- "Viral Voting". WebRoots Democracy. 2014-05-13. Retrieved 2016-12-29.
- "Digital democracy: will 2015 be the last paper-based general election?". Telegraph.co.uk. Retrieved 2016-12-29.
- "Online voting could boost flagging turnout by 9 million | Shout Out UK". Shout Out UK | Political Youth News Network. 2015-03-17. Retrieved 2016-12-29.
- Kobie, Nicole (2015-03-30). "Why electronic voting isn't secure – but may be safe enough". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2016-12-29.
- Charlton, Alistair (2015-04-17). "Why can't we vote online?". International Business Times UK. Retrieved 2016-12-29.
- WebRootsUK (2015-06-20), Viral Voting report mentioned in the House of Commons, retrieved 2016-12-29
- Westminster, Department of the Official Report (Hansard), House of Commons,. "House of Commons Hansard Debates for 18 Jun 2015 (pt 0004)". www.publications.parliament.uk. Retrieved 2016-12-29.
- Darlington, Ralph (2015). "The Conservative Government's proposed strike ballot thresholds: The challenge to the trade unions" (PDF). Salford Business School.
- "Secure Voting". WebRoots Democracy. 2016-01-26. Retrieved 2016-12-29.
- WebRootsUK (2016-02-25), BBC Daily Politics discussion on online voting for the UK, retrieved 2016-12-29
- O’Donoghue, Andrew (2016-06-28). "Could a Brexit have been avoided if the UK had a smarter, digital voting system?". International Business Times UK. Retrieved 2016-12-29.
- WebRootsUK (2016-02-09), Secure Voting report mentioned in the House of Lords, retrieved 2016-12-29
- WebRootsUK (2016-03-17), Baroness Neville-Rolfe cites Secure Voting report in the House of Lords, retrieved 2016-12-29
- WebRootsUK (2016-04-30), UK Government to commission independent review on online strike ballots, retrieved 2016-12-29
- "Public elections: Electronic voting" (PDF). States of Jersey. Retrieved 2016-12-29.
- "Feasibility study on Internet voting for the Central Electoral Commission of the Republic of Moldova". UNDP in Moldova. Retrieved 2016-12-29.
- "Democracy 2.0". WebRoots Democracy. 2017-01-26. Retrieved 2017-01-30.
- "Cat Smith: Tories must crack down on trolling to help protect democracy | LabourList". LabourList | Labour's biggest independent grassroots e-network. 2017-01-26. Retrieved 2017-01-30.
- webrootsdemocracy (2015-07-18). "WebRoots Democracy/YouGov poll shows majority want online voting implemented in the 2016 London Mayoral Election". WebRoots Democracy. Retrieved 2016-12-29.
- webrootsdemocracy (2015-07-21). "WebRoots Democracy/YouGov poll shows majority want online voting implemented in the EU referendum". WebRoots Democracy. Retrieved 2016-12-29.
- "Online voting discussion on BBC London 94.9". audioBoom. Retrieved 2016-12-29.
- "Should online voting be introduced ahead of the mayoral election?". London Live. 2015-07-23. Retrieved 2016-12-29.
- "Three in five Londoners want to be able to vote online". Evening Standard. 2015-07-23. Retrieved 2016-12-29.
- WebRootsUK (2015-07-25), LBC discussion of the WebRoots Democracy/YouGov poll on online voting, retrieved 2016-12-29
- webrootsdemocracy (2014-10-31). "Online Voting: Time to drag our democracy into the 21st century". WebRoots Democracy. Retrieved 2016-12-29.
- "Brexit: Over 1 million extra young voters if we reform voting system". The Telegraph. Retrieved 2016-12-29.
- "Advisory Council". WebRoots Democracy. 2016-10-11. Retrieved 2017-01-30.
- "Political Ambassadors". WebRoots Democracy. 2017-01-25. Retrieved 2017-01-30.