'E-voting' trials at council polls led to fall in turnout

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Indy Politics

The Government's enthusiasm for "e-voting" will come under attack today when a new report will conclude that the new technology led to a fall in turnout.

A study by the Electoral Reform Society (ERS) found that voting by internet, telephone, digital television or text messaging was a "gimmick" that failed to increase voter participation.

The society's report on the 17 e-voting pilots in the 2003 local elections says all-postal ballots were much more effective in improving turnout. It also says introducing proportional representation pilots is likely to boost turnout.

The average turnout fell by 1.5 per cent. In only one council, Vale Royal, did it rise by more than 10 per cent.

Ken Ritchie, chief executive of the ERS, said: "The fact is that e-voting, whether by telephone, internet, digital TV or text messaging, does not raise turnouts in a significant way.''

But a spokeswoman for the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister said that raising turnout had not been the aim. "It's more about widening access, extending choice and adapting to a modern lifestyle." The fall in turnout was "not significant enough" to make ministers abandon plans for the first "e-enabled" general election in 2006.