Changing the way we vote - 100 years on

20 Apr 00
Some 32 councils around the country are preparing to revolutionise voting during the local elections next month.

21 April 2000

In an attempt to shore up declining turnout and move away from the 'scrubby pencil and paper' aspect of traditional voting, a Home Office-led pilot will see the introduction of electronic voting, mobile polling stations and all-postal ballots. Some councils plan to put polling booths in supermarkets and libraries.

For Nick Easton, from the Local Government Association's policy and research department, it is a matter of modernisation. 'The current electoral arrangements have been in place for 100 years,' he said. 'A lot has changed since then and people no longer live close to where they work so it is impractical not to be able to vote wherever and however you choose.'

However, it is unclear whether the changes will affect turnout. Easton said: 'This is a wait-and-see process. There is no evidence that any of this will work. But we will be able to find out how political parties and local people find the process.'

The pilots will also check whether other voting procedures are more open to fraud, according to Easton. The alternative arrangements, which are being funded by councils, have been agreed by Home Secretary Jack Straw under the 1998 Representation of the People Act.

Almost 3 million voters will have access to the innovative arrangements and councils will issue evaluation reports after the elections.


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