Headlines: January 30th, 2007



Thirteen councils across England will be trying out new methods of voting in an effort to make it more convenient for people to take part in May’s Local Government Elections. All the pilot projects will then be evaluated by the Electoral Commission with findings being published in August.

Five councils – Rushmore, Shrewsbury and Atcham, South Bucks, Sheffield and Swindon – will be trying out electronic advance voting with Bedford, Broxbourne, Gateshead and Sunderland trying a paper-based advanced voting system. Electronic scanning technology will be tested in counting ballot papers in Bedford, Breckland, Dover, South Bucks, Stratford-on-Avon and Warwick.

In Rushmoor, Sheffield, Shrewsbury & Atcham, South Bucks and Swindon voters will be able to cast their ballots electronically using the Internet or telephones alongside existing polling stations and Sheffield, Shrewsbury & Atcham and Swindon will also be using additional central polling stations that will allow people to vote at convenient locations that may be outside the ward in which they are registered.

All the pilots are designed to test the effectiveness of systems intended to improve participation, to enhance security and to improve the efficiency and cost effectiveness of election processes. Each will be studied by the independent Electoral Commission which will consider the impact of the innovations on participation, security and cost effectiveness.

Bridget Prentice, Elections Minister at the Department of Constitutional Affairs said new systems needed to be tested on a local scale before any decisions were made about the future. “Not everyone can get to a polling station, so we need to introduce new ways to make it easier for people to exercise their right to vote. More and more people, and particularly young people, are using the Internet everyday. We need to see if we can use this to encourage people even more to participate in the democratic process,” she said.