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Last Updated: Thursday, 31 July, 2003, 10:04 GMT 11:04 UK
Vote experiment verdict due
Postal vote
All-postal ballots seem to have been a success
The verdict on a series of pilot schemes aimed at boosting electoral turnout is set to be delivered on Thursday.

Postal voting, texting, the internet and digital TV were all tested during May's local elections amid fears that people are becoming disengaged from the political process.

Now the Electoral Commission chairman Sam Younger will announce the results of an analysis of the experiments by 59 local authorities.

We are concerned that there are insufficient safeguards in these postal voting and e-voting schemes against election fraud
Bill Cash

He will also publish recommendations as to whether the experiments should be used in future polls, including the next general election.

Initial analysis of the various experiments suggested that all-postal ballots had been particularly successful in driving up turnout to 50% when local polls normally see only 30-35% of voters exercising their right.

Early indications showed that electronic voting did not have the same impact.

Fraud fears

There have been some concerns expressed that electoral fraud could rise under the new methods of voting.

Conservative constitutional affairs spokesman Bill Cash said: "We support measures to increase turnout, but we are concerned that there are insufficient safeguards in these postal voting and e-voting schemes against election fraud.

"We also need the protection of parliamentary scrutiny of these schemes - currently a Whitehall politician can impose them by executive order without any check or balance.

"We must not allow the traditional, trustworthy British electoral system to be compromised. Allowing politicians unrestricted power to change the manner in which elections take place risks in future our electoral system being abused for partisan advantage."

Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Mr Younger acknowledged that postal voting could be the subject of fraud.

Boost

"It's not 100% secure but then nor is conventional polling station voting," he said.

But he added that the trials showed that turnout was higher than in a conventional election.

"In the ones that there were in May, the average turnout was just under 35%.

"The average turnout in all-postal was almost 50%.

"For local elections where there has traditionally been real worries about turnout, it seems to me it's a robust way of going forward."

As for electronic voting, Mr Younger said experiments were at an earlier stage and needed further piloting.

'Robust'

"Government wants to see an e-enabled election some time after 2006. We wouldn't put a date on it at the moment because there is a fair way to go," he said.

"But the experiments have so far been successful, not in increasing turnout, but in being robust and in being appreciated by those people who have used them."

More than 1.5m people in 18 local council areas had the chance to take part in the voting trials in May.

These included voting by SMS text message, internet, electronic kiosk and - for the first time ever - via digital TV.

Other areas experimented with postal voting, polling over several days and mobile polling stations.




SEE ALSO:
Voters 'keen on e-election'
29 Apr 03  |  Politics
Postal vote success hailed
30 Apr 03  |  Tyne/Wear


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