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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.

With technology we can all be government ministers.

Martina, UK
Not only is it a trustier, more efficient, and more accurate way of voting, it will also mean that we can start voting on more issues and not just for a government every 5 years. Governments were created at a time when this was the only method for government - with technology we can all be government ministers and MP's by voting on all issues. Traditional MP's can raise the issues and debate - enabling the electorate to understand the finer points, and we can then vote on it. This way we can employ intelligent MPs and not those with political capabilities - and we can then be sure that our voice is always heard and not just when the politicians want to hear us!
Martina, UK

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.
Andy, England

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.
John, England

How will we know our vote has got there?

Paul Elkington, UK
I think technology used well is a valuable tool, but we need to remember that both Orange and BTCellnet have recently admitted to "throwing away" text messages when their networks get busy. How will we know our vote has got there, and will we end up with a lengthy legal process like the US presidential election when votes don't get counted?
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.
p, UK

So, the government is at last coming clean and admitting that our votes are not secret?
Ian Fairley, Scotland

The idea is not only a dangerous one, it is deeply cynical

Edward Holmes, UK
The idea is not only a dangerous one, it is deeply cynical. Labour know the only way they are ever going to stay in government is to keep the voting numbers up. The Tories will always have about 30% of the public who will vote for them, come rain or shine. Labour, on the other hand, have no consistent 'core-vote' as such. It's interesting it's only being proposed now that it is to the government's advantage.
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.
Peter McGunnigle, West Yorkshire, UK

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.
Matt, Amsterdam

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.
James Pittman, England

Text messaging may improve your turn-out percentages but does it improve the voting process?

Ed Vista, UK
Text messaging may improve your turn-out percentages but does it improve the voting process? Probably not, if anything it will trivialise it. People will put less onus on who they vote for, turning a no vote into a snap decision made over a pint at the local.
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.
Chris B, England

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...!
Sarah, UK

I still trust the black box

Dave, England
Mobile phones can be stolen and PIN numbers intercepted: Can they really be sure that the individual voting is the individual entitled to that vote? I still trust the black box.
Dave, England

Anything which increases the percentage of votes (remember, it was only around 55% at the last election) can only be a good thing.
Craig Miller, UK

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.
Vincent, Liverpool

Would you vote by text message?



199 Votes Cast

Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion

See also:

05 Feb 02 | UK Politics
Text message voting to be trialled
05 Feb 02 | UK Politics
Online voting fraud warning
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