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EDITIONS
Thursday, 23 May, 2002, 08:24 GMT 09:24 UK
Text message votes 'trivialises' elections
E-voting being tested
There are concerns over e-voting security
Casting votes via the telephone, internet or by digital television is seen as a "good idea" but many UK people who took part in a survey on electronic voting said they would not use it themselves.

The survey suggests that many worried about the security and privacy of e-voting, while others found it difficult to key in accurately personal identification numbers (Pin) that would identify them.


Any changes to the voting system must be properly researched to ensure that they are of real benefit to the public

Nick Raynsford
There was also little support for the use of text voting from mobile phones because it was felt "to trivialise" the election process, although its use has not been ruled out.

The De Montford University-led study into alternative ways of voting aimed to root out barriers to e-voting in a bid to offer an e-enabled general election sometime after 2006.

Trials on 2.5 million potential voters carried out at the local elections earlier this month found that in some areas, like two wards in Liverpool, turnout increased from 20.71% to 27.49%.

But in Newham, where electronic voting and e-counting were trialled, turnout fell by 0.4% to 27.6%.

Abuse safeguards

Local Government Minister Nick Raynsford said the sole purpose of the research was to make it easier for people to vote.

"This was an important stage in the government programme to test alternative ways of voting that may make it easier for people to exercise their democratic rights," he said.

"Any changes to the voting system must be properly researched to ensure that they are of real benefit to the public, as well as incorporating effective safeguards against abuse.

Nick Raynsford
Voting systems should make it easier for electors
"Whatever else we do, we must maintain confidence in the whole polling process and we must maintain the integrity of the ballot.

"We are proceeding in a very measured way with a series of pilots, all of which will be evaluated by the independent Electoral Commission.

"I believe the pilots were a success. The postal voting pilots clearly did have a positive impact on the level of turn out."

Resistance

Mr Raynsford said the e-voting was found to be easy to use and more than 10% of those who voted in Swindon, voted by internet - higher than those who voted by post.

Dr Laurence Pratchett, who led the research, said: "There is support for e-voting in the population, even among those who won't use it.

"A lot of older people in the focus groups said that they wouldn't use electronic voting, but they couldn't see why others shouldn't use it."

But he added: "There were significant pockets of resistance."

The use of cash and lottery machines were seen as "non starters as far as the public is concerned", said Dr Pratchett.

Public confidence

The affect of e-voting on the numbers of people going to the polls is likely to be "minimal".

"Those who don't vote are no more likely to vote," he said.

Dr Pratchett said some people felt e-voting disconnected the voter from the system even further.

The survey said widescale remote voting by electronic means should not be embarked on until issues of secrecy, security and public confidence in the different voting methods were addressed.

Electors should be able to choose from a range of ways to vote, including the traditional polling station, to suit their commitments and lifestyles, it added.

Mr Raynsford said e-voting would make it easier for local authorities to test public views instantly on issues, including the rate of council tax.

Ben Fairweather, from De Montford University, said e-voting needed to be designed to detect hacking immediately.

Postal voting in May's local elections was reported to have increased by 28%, while e-voting increased by 5% and online voting by 1%.

Local Government Secretary Stephen Byers suggested on Tuesday that the 2004 European elections could be the first nationwide all-postal vote.


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21 May 02 | UK Politics
05 Feb 02 | UK Politics
05 Feb 02 | UK Politics
07 Jan 02 | dot life
28 Mar 01 | UK Politics
19 Mar 01 | UK Politics
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