Headlines: May 10th, 2001

The Local Government Association (LGA) has taken the opportunity of the announcement of the general election to lobby for an updated way of voting.Local council chief executives are responsible for running the UK’s polling booths – whether for local, general or European elections. And they think the whole system of putting a cross in a box with a stubby pencil needs modernising.

The procedures for voting on June 7 will be largely as for the last 100 years or more – despite enormous changes in information and communications technology. And these developments, argue the LGA, make our electoral system look increasingly antiquated.

Local authorities have been experimenting with new ways of voting, involving changes to when, where and how people vote, and have used these pilots to inform a new report, The Way We Vote, which argues that national government can learn from these local examples.

Sir Jeremy Beecham, chair of the LGA, says the current system owes more in its design to trying to prevent fraud than to encouraging turnout. One of the issues of the forthcoming election is likely to be turnout, which could be less than 70%.