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Tuesday, 24 July, 2001, 14:13 GMT 15:13 UK
Report tackles voter apathy
Person putting postal ballot into post box
Postal voting is one way to make polling easier
A range of measures designed to lure voters back to the polls is being proposed by the Electoral Commission.

The commission has investigated why turnout was an all-time low of 59% at the 7 June general election.

In the first official report into the poll, published on Tuesday, it maintains that responsibility for reversing voter apathy rests primarily with politicians.

A polling station in the 2001 general election
Only 59% of voters went to the polls this year

But it also accepts that making voting easier would help.

In advance of the report's publication, commission chairman Sam Younger said: "The commission is determined to press forward at once with an agenda for making voting easier and more user friendly."

The report suggests looking at:

  • Voting over the internet or by phone
  • Polling over several days
  • Better funding and training for those organising polls
  • Making registering to vote easier

It calls for a targeted programme of voter education that tackles, in particular, the low turnout among ethnic minority communities and younger people.

"Perhaps the single most important issue arising from the 2001 General Election is the need to address, urgently and radically, the decline in public participation," the report said.

The commission also suggests a review of the design of ballot papers so that disillusioned voters can make a "positive abstention".

The commission is enthusiastic for postal voting, saying there was no significant increase in fraud.

Empty polling station during the 2001 general election
The value of party political broadcasts is questioned by the report
It suggested that a televised debate between major party leaders could be beneficial.

But it questioned the value of party political broadcasts, and whether they do anything to encourage people to vote.

The commission chose not to examine the case for making voting compulsory. In Australia, where those who do not vote are fined, turnout is 95%.

The commission was established last year. It has regulatory, educational and modernising responsibilities for electoral law and practice.

The BBC's political correspondent Laura Trevelyan
"The Commission highlights the novel idea of positive abstention"
Chairman of the electoral commission, Sam Younger
"Anything that there is in terms of fraud is a potential danger to the credibility of the system"

Ballot bores
How can voter apathy be overcome?
See also:

24 Jul 01 | UK Politics
Voters 'ignored e-election'
26 Jun 01 | UK Politics
Jenkins urges voting reform
08 Jun 01 | Wales
Ballot box boredom hits town
11 May 01 | Voting System
What the electoral commission does
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