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Last Updated: Friday, 4 May 2007, 11:46 GMT 12:46 UK
Glitches force council recounts
Hand count of votes
Polling station staff are having to count electronic votes by hand
Five English councils trialling new ways of electronic voting have been forced to hold recounts after a series of glitches.

Warwick, Stratford and Breckland district councils suffered delays as scanning machines performed poorly.

Computer crashes hit systems in South Buckinghamshire and Swindon.

All five councils are conducting recounts by hand. The government said no votes would be lost, with delays the only problem suffered.

'Not lost'

The authorities were among a dozen testing advance voting, electronic voting by internet or telephone, e-counting and signing for ballot papers.

A Department for Constitutional Affairs spokeswoman said: "The important thing is that no votes will be lost. The only consequence is one of delay."

She added that the remaining counts did not appear to have suffered problems.

In Stratford, ballot-scanning machines rejected more papers for adjudication than expected and performed slowly.

District council leader Les Topham said: "It is always the same with new technology. If it works, it is brilliant; if it doesn't, everything collapses."

He added: "We are learning all the time with these things and I am sure we will get it right in the future."

Fellow councillor Christopher Williams said one of the reasons for the failure was machines tallied votes only when the cross was placed exactly in the centre of the box.

Machine troubles were also experienced in Warwick.

In Breckland, Norfolk, there were problems with the perforations on top of electronically scanned ballot papers not being properly removed.

'Week early'

The electronic system in South Buckinghamshire and Swindon is part of a national project to try out innovations aimed at improving the security, efficiency and cost-effectiveness of elections.

Residents could vote via the internet up to a week before polling stations opened, using their own computer or laptops set up in special booths.

But the count for South Buckinghamshire District Council was abandoned when the computer system being used to add up the electronically cast votes crashed.

In Swindon, organisers were forced to recount every e-vote after polling stations reported problems.

The councils taking part in the 12 pilots were: Bedford Borough, Breckland District, Broxbourne, Dover District, Gateshead, Rushmoor Borough, Sheffield City, Shrewsbury and Atcham Borough, South Bucks District, Stratford-on-Avon District and Warwick District Council (joint), Sunderland City Council and Swindon Borough.



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