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Last Updated: Friday, 2 May, 2003, 05:04 GMT 06:04 UK
Non-voters are the majority
A voter on the way to the polls in Scotland
More than 38m could have voted

Britain's politicians will be looking for new ways to re-engage the public in the wake of another show of voters failing to turn out.

In the English local council elections, no more than one in three voters went to the polls, although turnout was boosted in areas using all-postal votes.

Opponents of devolution will also try to draw capital from the voting numbers for the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly polls.

In the Welsh elections, turnout was down by about 10% on 1999 - with apparently no more than 38% of voters making it to the ballot boxes.

The picture was better in Scotland, but there the turnout looked to have dipped below 50%, down about 8 points on last time.

Postal boost

New methods of voting were trialled in many local councils in an attempt to make voting easier.

Electoral Commission figures suggest turnout in districts using all-postal ballots averaged 44%, up 10 points on the last elections in those areas.

But there were problems in St Albans, one of 17 councils offering e-voting.

Glitches with onscreen voting in polling booths meant officers had to manually check that those who wanted to vote electronically in the booths had not already voted at home.

The system failed to recognise the PIN number given to the electorate to prevent them from voting twice, but the council did manage to declare its results in the early hours.

According to a BBC survey on average there was a 20 point increase in the turnout in those wards using an all postal ballot.

Internet voting in advance of the election may have resulted in a slightly improved turnout where this facility was available but has once again proven far less effective at increasing turnout than all postal ballots.


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