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Last Updated: Tuesday, 29 April, 2003, 14:35 GMT 15:35 UK
Voters 'keen on e-election'
More than 1.5m people will take part in electronic voting trials
More than half the population would be more willing to cast their vote at local elections if they could do so electronically, an opinion poll during the campaign suggested.

The review, carried out by MORI for the Electoral Commission - the independent body responsible for promoting participation in elections - found that 60% said the offer of e-voting would make them more likely to participate.

It is important we look at all kinds of ways in which we can make it easy for people to use their vote
Nicole Smith
Electoral Commission
Voters are already being able to make their mark in pilot areas by text message, internet, electronic kiosk, and for the first time, digital TV.

Only 32% voted in last year's English local elections, while just 59% turned out for the 2001 UK general election.

Text messaging

In the Electoral Commission survey of adults in England, 21% said they had not voted then because the polling station was inconvenient for them.

If they had the chance to e-vote, 41% would like to do so by the internet, followed by text messaging (33%) and digital TV (26%), the poll suggested.

Nicole Smith, head of policy at the Electoral Commission, said: "People still care about education, taxes, policing and healthcare as much as before, but turnouts have been falling in part due to a lack of convenience for voters.

"When life is very hectic, a trip to the polling station can be hard to fit in. So it is important we look at all kinds of ways in which we can make it easy for people to use their vote."

E-voting has the potential to re-engage young people in the political process
Stuart James
A separate survey published by Hedra, a leading consulting partner in the public sector, suggested that over half of young people would be more likely to vote if they could do so by the internet.

The UK-wide research, conducted by ICM, indicateed that with e-voting 40% of young people would spend more time considering party policies, but nearly a third of voters across all ages would have less confidence in the result of an online election.

The poll suggested that more than a third of people would be more likely to take part in elections if they could vote online.

Web security

This would climb to 51% for voters aged between 18 and 34 - the age group where turnout has fallen dramatically in recent elections.

The poll suggested that a quarter of all voters would spend more time researching the political issues and candidates if they could vote electronically.

Stuart James, Hedra deputy chairman, said: "E-voting has the potential to re-engage young people in the political process.

"It could also improve the quality of political debate and lend weight to the election result, by encouraging voters to consider their options more closely.

"Fears over fairness and web security are largely a matter of perception rather than reality, but there is still a need for the government to educate the public about this new voting method."

Alex Folkes, from the Electoral Reform Society, said new voting methods alone would not tackle low turnout.

"As well as addressing the issue of convenience, the government should be looking at changing the voting system so that more votes count," said Mr Folkes.

"At present, too many elections are foregone conclusions and we can understand why people may be more reluctant to bother to vote if they know they ballot will have no effect."

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