Low turnout among younger voters is a problem. In 2019, the age group with the highest turnout was those over 65: the turnout of every other age group was substantially lower.
This causes a number of problems. In particular, it encourages all parties to develop policy which is disproportionately aimed at older voters, who are more likely to be property owners, to derive income from pension wealth rather than labour, and who might have less interest in long term issues such as the environment. It skews the democratic process and chills the development of long term policies in areas such as housing and energy.
One obvious structural barrier to under 65s voting is the fact that we hold elections on Thursdays, when most under 65s are at work. Removing this barrier, by holding elections on a Saturday, would increase turnout of working age voters without making it harder for those over 65 to vote.
In my research I came across a few different suggestions as to why Thursday is our traditional election day: it’s the day before pay day so people are less likely to be drunk or hungover; it’s not a day when many people go to church, meaning vicars can’t exercise undue influence; it gives the new inhabitant of Number 10 a few days to move in ready to start work on Monday. None of these reasons is convincing. It’s simply a tradition- and one which is causing harm.
Moving elections to a Saturday is a simple way to increase turnout, to encourage parties to focus policy fairly across all age groups and ultimately to help combat inter-generational unfairness and short-termism in our politics.
(Please note that I first mooted this idea as a called to Matt Chorley’s Times Radio show. I haven’t nicked someone else’s idea from that show!)