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Last Updated: Friday, 25 April, 2003, 12:03 GMT 13:03 UK
Will ballot trials woo back voters?
The internet, mobiles and an electronic "vote-o-meter" are just some of the methods local councils have turned to in the hope of reigniting the electorate's interest in politics.

A host of pilot schemes, experimenting with novel ways of casting your ballot, is aimed at reversing the pattern of sliding turnouts.

Beer mat
Beer mats urge pub-goers to vote
In Sheffield, voters can text message, use a touch-tone phone service, go online or use electronic kiosks across the city.

Meanwhile in Blackpool, never a centre for understatement, an illuminated vote-o-meter will reveal the returns in the city's first all-postal ballot.

The council hopes the 11-foot tableau outside the town hall will jolt residents into exercising their democratic right.

Steve Weaver, chief executive of Blackpool Council, said: "In the last local elections in Blackpool, just over a quarter of the potential electorate actually voted.

"This year we are doing all we can to encourage people to do so as decisions made by the local authority impact directly on everybody's lives."

He added: "It is therefore up to voters to ensure the right person is representing their ward and giving them a voice when important decisions about their neighbourhood and livelihood are made in the council chamber."

In East Northamptonshire pubs and off-licences have been targeted in a bid to get drinkers to take part in the democratic process.

Beer mats and posters were distributed ahead of polling day to entice members of the electorate into voting.

All-postal

Blyth Valley borough council is one of several opting for an all-postal vote, which in previous trials have been shown to boost turnout significantly.

Broxbourne borough council is opting for e-counting as is Basingstoke and Deane which will also provide e-voting at polling stations.

Shrewsbury and Atcham borough council meanwhile are using digital TV, touch-tone phones, internet, e-voting at polling stations, e-counting combined with an all-postal ballot.

Some councils are extending the hours during which the polls will be open, including South Oxfordshire district council.

And the Royal Borough of Windsor & Maidenhead is also allowing early voting via mobile polling booths.




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