Headlines: May 8th, 2002

Latest tests of new ways to vote appear to have made progress at getting people more interested in local democracy.Last week’s local elections offered voters in pilot areas the chance to cast their vote by post, via the internet or by a mobile phone text message. Such pilots have been tried before, but not with such conclusive results.

In South Tyneside, where all postal voting was used, turnout was 55% – compared with 27% previously. In Swindon ten per cent of people who voted chose the option of doing so via the council’s website. A further five percent took up the option of voting via touch telephone.

In Sheffield, thirty per cent of voters in two pilot wards voted electronically, rather than visiting their local school or community hall to cast their vote in person.

Systems and software appear to have performed well with no significant problems. In addition, new ways of voting were well received by those who used them.

The latest pilots are the biggest on this scale yet held in Europe. TheUK is eager to test new voting methods to combat voter apathy.

Whereas previous pilots have been inconclusive, these more refined tests seem to have started to find what is likely to work in capturing the public imagination and increasing the turnout. The DTLR is already talking confidently about the next round of pilots to be conducted. A full evaluation report on the pilots will follow from the Electoral Commission, which will inform future pilots