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Last Updated: Saturday, 28 August, 2004, 12:15 GMT 13:15 UK
Postal voting: Should there be a choice?
Postal vote in envelope
All-postal voting should not be used in UK elections, a watchdog has found.

Postal voting trials took place in the North East, North West, East Midlands and Yorkshire for the local and European elections in June.

The Electoral Commission studied the summer elections and found that turnout increased 5% in all-postal areas but the trials were blighted with delayed voting papers, complex voting methods and the public's fears of fraud.

The Commission says that voters want the choice of going to a polling station or voting by post.

Would you like the choice to vote in a polling station or by post? Do you think the UK should have an all-postal voting policy? Will postal voting help boost turnout?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received so far:

I will not vote in any future postal only elections
Peter Bromwich, Warrington, Cheshire
I refused to vote in the last local elections because they were postal vote only. I did not like the way the government had taken away my right of choice. I will not vote in any future postal only elections. This is the first time I have not voted since I was 18!! I am now 61.
Peter Bromwich, Warrington, Cheshire

Most people, particularly Tories in the North East, seem to have missed the point that the report did not conclude that postal voting was more open to fraud than traditional voting (which is surprisingly easy to fiddle, just turn up, give a name, and if it's on the register and hasn't voted yet you are away.) Rather it said postal voting should end because it had lost the public's confidence. E-voting however is more open to fraud (just look at the USA) and this is why it has not been trailed so extensively.
Morp H, London, UK

One of the principles of democracy is the secret ballot. With online, text message or postal voting that is lost. Postal voting should only be available when it is impossible to reach a ballot box. And, as democracy is the highest form of government, apparently worth killing and dying for, let's keep the voting stations open for a week, with a proper mass-media debate beforehand. It'll cost money? Why shouldn't democracy cost money?
Andrew Bartlett, Cardiff, Wales

It's much easier to keep your vote secret at the polling station
Michael, Bath, England
My worry is that a bullying member of a family could influence the votes of other people in the household. It's much easier to keep your vote secret at the polling station.
Michael, Bath, England

Yes, anything to increase the number of voters and make us more democratic.
Bill, Lanarkshire

Hey, let's have smart card like ID cards with a PIN number and place voting machines all over the place national lottery style - slip your card into the machine, enter your PIN and select your vote. Easy - heck, with a system like that we could start having more referendums too... I agree that a 'I don't like any of these choices' option would be nice also. Maybe voting could even enter you into a draw for a small cash prize.
Tim, Colchester, England

The ballot box should stay. Postal votes were always available for those who wanted them anyway. If politicians want to maximise votes, they should take a long hard look at themselves, their morals and their policies. Real statesmen appear to be a thing of the past.
Alex, Liverpool, UK

What's with this archaic voting by carrier-pigeon thing? This is the 21st century - what's wrong with online voting?
Rachel, USA (ex UK)

Our postal system isn't good enough for postal voting to be effective
Jason, Swindon England
You have to be realistic in the fact that our postal system isn't good enough for postal voting to be effective.
Jason, Swindon England

I had no option but to use a postal vote. Somehow it lacked the sense of occasion of visiting the polling station. I don't think voting should ever be made compulsory, but I hope voters will be offered a choice in the method of how their vote is delivered.
David Anderson, Wakefield, West Yorkshire

How can you reply on postal voting when the Royal Mail loses something like half a million letters a week. I for one would have no confidence that my vote would even arrive. As to the suggestion of online voting - the vast majority of the population do not have internet access and so this is a none starter as well. Stick with the current polling stations, people who are serious about voting always make the effort and do so.
Steve Allen, Welwyn Garden City, England

All postal voting is undemocratic
Graham, Leeds, England
All postal voting is undemocratic. Everyone should have the opportunity to vote on the day of the election, into a ballot box, so that all election issues can be considered up to the last day. Ban it and fire the idiot politician who first thought of it!
Graham, Leeds, England

What an amazing level of paranoia on this board. Who exactly is it that you think is planning to intercept and change your votes?
Ross, London, UK

It doesn't make any difference. 90% of the electorate are too lazy, too ill informed, and too unintelligent to understand the issues. To misquote the old adage, democracy is wasted on the masses.
John, England

Those of us in the "other voter" section of the Electoral Register were not sent a ballot paper in the last election because they have no address to which it can be sent. Presumably I would have to request a postal vote in an all postal election!
Andrew, Runcorn, UK

This just makes being a disenchanted voter more difficult
S. Shone, Manchester, UK
Personally I like the voting cards, they're easy to spot as they come through the door and hence easy to throw away. This just makes being a disenchanted voter more difficult. I'm sure I too would struggle putting the voting card in the envelope marked "put your voting card in this envelope", like so many enlightened voters. In a country where the tabloid press decide the majority view, corporation is consulted on policy making and the majority of the electorate can't understand simple instructions - what's the point?
S. Shone, Manchester, UK.

Postal voting is okay if it's an option and didn't include the witness signature rubbish. Also, voting should be made mandatory so long as there is a box to tick 'None of the above' to show your disapproval of the useless parties available.
Louise, Lincoln, UK

5%% is that all? That is just the corrupt extra votes probably filled in by family members for those not interested. Postal ballots are wrong, wide open to easy corruption. If you can not be bothered to go to a proper polling station you do not care about the vote. It makes it very suspicious why New Labour would be SO insistent on such a bad system to get their way on votes.
James St George, London England

Go ahead with postal voting, but stick a charge on it - because I refuse to pay for someone who cannot be bothered to walk 200 yards to the local polling station.
Hayley Dunaroomup, Southampton, Hampshire

In the UK we seem to go backwards, not forwards
Barb , Golden Cross, East Sussex
Why can't we vote electronically? In the UK we seem to go backwards, not forwards. Let's get into the 21st Century, the same as folk in the Developing World seem to be doing.
Barb , Golden Cross, East Sussex

In order to preserve what little democracy we have left, I believe that postal votes should be available only to those who cannot attend a local polling station in person. The opportunity to intercept postal votes, or obtain them by duress, and to falsify them is too great. If election turn-outs are too low, the first thing to do is to find out why, and that is best done by appending another box on the ballot paper so that people can vote for "None of the above".
Colin, Reading

Although the turnout in postal voting areas increased (which helps as less than half of Britons now vote) I believe that people should be given the choice whether to use the ballot, postal vote, or not turn up at all, as is usually the case.
Kyle Allen, Gosport, England

The recent postal vote here was a disgrace
Andy, Leeds, UK
It certainly should! The recent postal vote here was a disgrace, with papers going missing, papers confusing the elderly, and most of all, not knowing if your vote would actually get there and be counted!
Andy, Leeds, UK

Postal voting is open to so much abuse it's incredible the idea got the green light in the first place! Turnout may increase but if some of those votes have been tampered with then that's worse than no vote at all.
John Wheater, Sheffield, UK

If people want to vote they should make an effort to come and do it, after all they have to go to a post box anyway to post the thing.
David, UK

The walk to and from the Polling Station is a necessary social ritual
Peter T, Godalming, Surrey
In this Surrey town, the walk to and from the Polling Station is a necessary social ritual. People see and greet their friends and neighbour on the same errand or serving at the ballot desk or as tellers. And we can be sure that our votes have made it into the ballot box. All-postal voting sounds bleak by comparison.
Peter T, Godalming, Surrey

Surely anything that lifts the percentage turnout's for elections above the 40%, or whatever, it is now is a good idea. People should be made to do one or the other, not fall through the gaps.
Giles Clinker, London, UK

I am totally opposed to an all-postal voting system. Call me paranoid but I feel there is much more scope for vote-rigging and tampering with this method.
Laura , Thornton, Lancashire

I believe that postal voting would benefit the electorate. This is yet another issue which should be decided by the electorate via referendum and not by our elected dictators.
Brian Langfield, Yorkshire - UK

Make voting mandatory with a hefty fine administered for not bothering
Ken, Reading, England
Postal voting is wide open to fraud and manipulation so I don't agree that it is a good idea in general. However it does have a place when it becomes the only way in which house bound people can vote. A far better way to increase turnout at elections would be to make voting mandatory with a hefty fine administered for not bothering.
Ken, Reading, England

It should be made compulsory to vote, and a box included to state "none of the above". Those convicted of crimes should be permanently deprived of the right to vote at all - why should my life be influenced by those who have shown they are not prepared to participate in the social contract? People should be provided with a range of alternatives on how to vote so they can choose an option they are comfortable with and that is convenient for them.
Bryan, UK

One person, one vote in a secret ballot is a fundamental of our free society
Kathy, UK
One person, one vote in a secret ballot is a fundamental of our free society. Postal ballots can be bought and sold, they can be stolen. Voters can be intimidated or disenfranchised by the simplest means. I don't care how much money postal ballots save, or how badly the politicians need to increase the voting figures. Some things are too important to compromise.
Kathy, UK

We have secure reliable internet connections and technology easily available to implement online voting with very little scope for fraud. So what do we do? Use postal voting! Brilliant, just brilliant!
Rob Smith, London, UK

Walking home from my local train station on polling day I passed two polling stations. My allocated polling station is a whopping 3 minutes walk from home. If people want to vote but are unable or unwilling to attend their polling station they have the right to request a postal vote. The remainder are people who can't be bothered to fill in a form requesting their ballot. I cannot see any reason why the basis of our polling system should be changed to suit people who can't be bothered to post a request for a ballot by post, not least because of documented evidence suggesting the postal system loses anything up to 1,000,000 letters per week.
Jonny, England

Give people a choice yes, but a choice it must be
Mark Baillie, Southampton, England
So postal voting increased turnout by 5%. There were many reports of people handing over their postal voting papers to third parties for completion. Therefore did voting or fraud increase by 5%. There is so much that can go wrong in terms of fraud and postal service, etc, that I want to know that my vote is received and counted. Give people a choice yes, but a choice it must be.
Mark Baillie, Southampton, England

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