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Monday, 11 February, 2002, 11:27 GMT
Should a text vote count?
Some voters will be able to cast their ballot by sending text messages or clicking their digital TV remote control in May's local elections.
The move is one of a series of trials - including post-only and online votes - being held across England and Wales.
The text messaging system will work by voters being given PIN numbers to use if they want to vote by text message.
The whole package is designed to get more people to "re-engage" with politics in the wake of falling turnout at recent elections.
Do you think that these methods would encourage more people to vote? Or should we keep the ballot box?
This Talking Point has now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
I can't help thinking that Labour has spotted a way of bolstering its vote. After all 'texting' is mainly a young persons activity, and young people tend to be idealistic and vote to the Left.
Let's leave things as they are - it only takes a few minutes to walk to your nearest polling station.
Increasingly low voter turnout is not just a UK problem, it afflicts many of the mature western democracies. I have no problem with voting via SMS, or any other means, as long as it's secure, but I don't think that it will address the apathy of the non-voting populace. If you can't be bothered to vote, you don't deserve to live in a proper democracy.
Paul Elkington, UK
Does voting mean so little to people? I do not have a problem with going to a polling station to vote - those who can't be bothered, obviously have no strong opinions on how their government or local council is run.
It won't be secure or secret (but the black box isn't either). The real problem is the paucity of politics, not the voting method. For a long time I've voted against a party rather than for one, and recently have started to question whether there's any real difference between one lot's sleaze & incompetence and another's.
So, the government is at last coming clean and admitting that our votes are not secret?
Edward Holmes, UK
Edward Holmes is wrong and cynical to say that the Labour Government is only suggesting alternative voting formats because it is to their advantage.
Long before the 1997 election the Labour party was discussing such matters at local level and I know that as a Kirklees Council Labour Group observer at that time, I was witness to such discussions and debates. There was indeed a lot of support for more sophisticated methods that facilitate easier voting for our lazy post-Thatcherite electorate.
There are two concepts here. The first is would it encourage more people to vote? Probably. Second, would it "re-engage" people. Nope. Nothing against the use of technology, it can be most useful. But what does it say if people don't spend five minutes walking to the polling stations? Either times are good, so they don't care, or no-one is offering any solutions, so they don't care. When the population's opinion of politicians integrity is so low that a quick walk seems to be too much effort, the politicians should look in the mirror. Listen up, Westminster, your people don't like you.
I think they're onto a winner here. For many people, myself included, sending a simple text message is far less effort than making a phone call or using the internet, let alone going to a ballot station. If any of these alternative methods of voting are going to prove successful then this should be the one. My only qualm is as to whether it be secure enough. After all, text messaging is a very primitive system without any of the fancy security features the internet has.
Ed Vista, UK
I note that Liverpool is one of the areas singled out for this experiment. Having studied current regional street crime trends, the chance of anyone in Liverpool still being in possession of their mobile phone by May seems remote.
While text messaging would be great for opinion polls and spot surveys, there are real issues with subverting the results when it comes to serious matters because there are people out there with the motivation and means to do this.
Security is the main issue - there will be 101 obvious ways to attack this system. For a start, the generation of PIN numbers must ensure that people cannot guess someone else's PIN that is long enough not to be shared but easy enough not to mistype, proper authentication of the owner of the pin when the vote is placed; a serious contender might even "take out" all the mobile base stations in an area dominated by a certain political party, etc etc...!
Anything which increases the percentage of votes (remember, it was only around 55% at the last election) can only be a good thing.
Let's not close our minds to the beneficial options that new technology can make to widen democracy.
Those black boxes with their pink ribbon seals will be there for a long time yet if that's what most people prefer but please remember it's not the physical method employed that's important but the conscious act of participating.
05 Feb 02 | UK Politics
Text message voting to be trialled
05 Feb 02 | UK Politics
Online voting fraud warning
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