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The country's largest ever trial of e-voting gets underway this week as new research reveals millions of electors would be more likely to cast their votes if they could do so electronically.
In English local elections on May 1st over 1.5 million people in 18 local council areas will be able to take part in voting trials by text message, internet, electronic kiosk and, for the first time ever, via digital TV. In some areas voting begins this week in advance of election day.
New research for The Electoral Commission shows there is significant demand for electronic voting and that it may help stem the declining turnout at elections. In a survey out today, more than half (55%) of English adults said that being offered e-voting in some form would encourage them to vote at the next local election. And the youngest group - 18-24 year olds - were most keen to try the new methods with three-quarters saying that e-voting would encourage them to participate.
Voting via the internet was seen as most likely to encourage participation (41%) followed by text messaging (33%), electronic kiosks (30%) and digital TV (26%). According to The Electoral Commission these new voting techniques are likely to become increasingly important as they cater to modern lifestyles.
Nicole Smith, director of policy at the Electoral Commission, said: "People still care about education, taxes, policing and healthcare as much as before, but turnout at elections has been falling. That is at least in part due to a lack of convenience for voters. When life is very hectic a trip to the polling station can be hard to fit in. So it is important we look at all kinds of ways in which we can make it easy for people to use their vote."
Turnout at last year's local government elections was just 32% and the most recent general election saw only 59% per cent of the electorate visit the ballot box. According to MORI/Commission surveys in 2001one fifth of non-voters (21%) said they didn't vote in the last general election because the polling station was inconvenient for them.
Not all pilots are offering the same technologies at these local elections. In some areas text messaging is available, in others kiosks and smart cards are being trailed. Digital TV is being tried for the first time in three areas but voting via the Internet and touch-tone phones are most commonly being offered to voters.Notes to Editors:
- The Electoral Commission is an independent body established by Parliament. It aims to ensure public confidence and participation in the democratic process within the United Kingdom through modernisation of the electoral process, promotion of public awareness of electoral matters and regulation of political parties.
- The research was carried out by Taylor Nelson Sofres between 11-13th April 2003. This study was conducted via telephone omnibus. 813 GB adults in England aged 18+ were interviewed.
For further information contact:
Tabitha Cunniffe on 020 7271 0529, mobile 07789 920414, or email email@example.com