Britain Votes: Voting to begin on Sundays

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The Independent Online
SUNDAY VOTING, directly-elected mayors and ballot boxes in supermarkets are among the changes to be introduced by the Government to reverse low turnouts at local elections, like yesterday's.

Ministers are likely to bring the measures before Parliament this year in an attempt to boost voter interest in town halls. A new Local Government Bill, expected to be included in the Queen's Speech in November, will give councils the power to transform radically when and how elections are run. The moves follow not just yesterday's results but years of voter apathy in county, metropolitan, unitary and district elections. Turnouts of less than 50 per cent have become the norm across the country, with some by-elections attracting less than 10 per cent of voters.

Londoners will be able to vote next May for a directly elected mayor and ministers want to extend the system to bring mayors to every city and town which wants one.

Poor turnout is also often blamed on the fact that elections have traditionally been held on Thursdays and staging them on Sundays could lead to more participation. Similarly, supermarket ballot boxes reflect the needs of a busy electorate who may not want to make a trip to a school or village hall. Electoral reformers believe that the best way of increasing interest is to replace the first-past-the-post system with proportional representation. Make Votes Count, a pressure group, claims that change would end the situation where Labour runs "one party states" in councils across the country with a small proportion of the vote. For example, before yesterday's elections, Labour held 97 per cent of the seats in boroughs like Wigan on the basis of 72 per cent of the vote in a turnout of 26 per cent.