Thursday, October 14, 1999 Published at 15:16 GMT 16:16 UK
Electronic count for mayor
Electronic voting machines have never been used in UK elections
Next year's election to choose a mayor of London and a Greater London Assembly will be the first in the UK to use electronic counting.
The electronic scanning equipment will be able to count two-and-a-half ballot papers a second.
That will mean Londoners will be able to know who their new mayor is the morning after the ballot, compared with the three days a manual count would take.
The system, which was used last year in elections in Bosnia-Herzegovina, will be given a dry run in mock elections held in the new year.
Environment minister Lord Whitty said: "The election will provide an excellent opportunity to introduce a more up-to-date method of counting votes, more in keeping with today's technology.
The elections for the mayor and the assembly will be held on 4 May using two forms of proportional representation.
Lord Whitty, replying to a parliamentary question, said: "We estimate that a manual count in next year's London elections could take up to three days before a result is known.
"With the new equipment, a result will be known by the next morning.
"For an election in the new millennium it is only right that we use the latest technology to speed up the process, as long as it can guarantee an accurate count and maintain public faith in the secrecy and integrity of the election process."
Voters in next May's elections will still be required to put a cross by the names of their preferred candidates.
But they will have to remember not to fold their ballot paper in the traditional way as the machine can only read an unfolded paper.
Notices in every polling booth will tell voters to put their papers in the box with the blank side upwards to ensure privacy.
The election will be fought by millionaire novelist Lord Archer for the Tories and businesswoman Susan Kramer for the Liberal Democrats.
The Labour has yet to select its candidate who will fight next May's election.
Former health secretary Frank Dobson, ex-GLC leader Ken Livingstone. Glenda Jackson MP and broadcaster Trevor Phillips all hope to be selected to become Labour's candidate.
Candidates will have to appear before a 13-member selection panel, followed by an electoral college, made up of votes from party members, union members and elected representatives.
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