I’ve seen the future and it’s a world with mostly digital campaigning and only online voting
As someone who expects Covid-19 and variants to be with us for at least the near future our lives we will have to adapt to prevent other pandemics and peaks and for election geeks like ourselves that means changes to how campaigns and voting are conducted, because the relentless optimist that I am I fear pandemics are here to stay.
Campaigning – Like the high streets things will move online
It is likely social distancing will be in place until we find a vaccine which may never come, so the traditional campaigning and going out meeting the great unwashed may not happen, who would want to go meet politicians when you could contract a deadly virus? I’m not sure politicians will be enamoured with the prospect of shaking so many hands. and being up close with so many isn’t attractive. Being stuck on a battle bus for a month long election campaign also doesn’t sound like fun.
For the bloody infantry who do the grunt work in elections going canvassing, visiting people, arranging knock and drops, organising stalls, knocking up the voters on election day look rather unappealing during a pandemic, this sort of hard work over many months and years is how elections are normally won. Does anyone want to take the risk of meeting lots of people who don’t regularly wash their hands?
I suspect during an election campaign, especially if you live in a marginal/target seat, then you won’t be able to go online without seeing political adverts. Social media will be the nexus for politicians to engage whether or not the average voter wants to see such stuff.
Elections – Get ready for online voting
I would sooner ring Deliveroo and order salt and pepper bat wings from a takeaway in Wuhan than endorse online voting in this country but we really won’t be living in a democracy if people are scared to go out and vote so that’s why the way voting is conducted will change.
With the demographic of the Conservative Party’s voters I’m sure the government will make it easier for their older voters to vote. I’m sure the Labour party will support online voting as anything that makes it easier for younger voters to vote they will back it.
Going to the polling station may been as playing Russian roulette with your health. Would you really want to go to place and stand in a confined space that hundreds if not thousands of people have stood in hours before?
Spare a thought for those who actually count the votes and have to touch all those ballot papers, at some venues it will impossible to participate in social distancing, and it might end up making the Californian counting process look prompt, I still think California are still counting the 2016 Presidential election.
Increased postal voting really isn’t an option because if people are shielding going out to post your votes really isn’t viable, and feel sorry for the poor counting staff who have to deal with envelopes with the saliva of the voters used to seal the envelopes as well the ballot papers and said envelopes being touched by thousands of voters.
With some form of social distancing in place we cannot expect people to go to millions of household to collect the postal votes, even before we consider what a nefarious person might do or not do with the postal ballots they are supposed to collect.
This means the end of the exit poll but on the positive side we might have all the results in by around midnight on election night so no more election all nighters.
Whilst the next UK wide general election is scheduled for 2024 there’s no guarantee that Covid-19 or other new similar viruses will not be around then there are some pretty important elections taking place before then.
The one that really could be the defining election is the 2021 Scottish Parliamentary election which I expect will become a de facto plebiscite on holding another independence referendum.
The ability of voters to participate will be essential in the defining all four nations of this United Kingdom, but a traditional voting experience won’t be an option if we have another wave of this accursed virus coincides with this election. Perhaps Westminster might follow the approach they used in the 1979 Scottish referendum because that turned out so well.
The political party or parties that adjust to the new reality will succeed, the others probably not.