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E-voting has long way to go

Election results mixed for alternative voting methods

Yesterday's poor turnout of voters in local elections was extremely disappointing to everyone in politics, but even more so to supporters of online voting systems which on the whole did little to improve participation.

Liverpool used text message and online voting systems while St Albans backed up internet voting with touch-screen kiosks, a system dubbed 'e-voting'.

"We were extremely disappointed with the results of e-voting," said David Allen, spokesman for the St Albans Labour party. "Turnout was worse than last year."

The latest figures suggest that areas with e-voting increased turnout on average by five percent while online voting only bumped voting numbers by one percent.

In Liverpool turnout was fairly poor with little increase (about two percent) on last year.

The news was the same from around the country including constituencies in Sheffield and Stratford-upon-Avon.

"People were actually deterred by the systems. There were no technical problems, the kiosks ran efficiently, but people just didn't want to use the technology. It's that simple," said Allen.

Based on these gloomy results it seems unlikely that e-systems will soon replace the traditional ballot box.

"On the whole, people preferred the old paper system," said a spokesman for the Labour Party. "It is a set back but we will continue to support the e-voting systems."

But these results should not be viewed as a let-down, according to the Electoral Reform Society.

"This was an experiment and it's not fair to write off e-voting just because it hasn't been a huge success across these extremely limited pilot schemes," said Alex Folkes, spokesman for ERS. "Technically, we have heard of no problems. The systems were safe and the results were collected effectively, from that point if view it was a success."

The ERS said it would now be studying why the systems weren't as effective as predicted in increasing participation.

"More pilots are needed to ascertain whether e-voting is a good idea. At the moment it's too early to say," added Folkes.

On a brighter note, postal votes were a huge hit. Stevenage's all-postal vote saw turnout rise to over 50 percent compared to last year's 29. The Electoral Commission has estimated that postal votes increased participation on average by 28 percent.

"Obviously this is the way forward," said a Commission spokesman.


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