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E-vote would push up Lib Dems' share

The Liberal Democrats would gain most from an online election, new research has revealed.

But the prospect of e-voting is being held back by the UK's digital divide.

With the general election only weeks away, a study by Forrester Research found that the Lib Dems would poll 21% - nearly a third up on their showing in recent Mori polls. Labour and the Conservatives would poll 43% and 30% respectively.

Despite encouraging a higher overall turnout, saving administration costs and improving accuracy, Forrester's Paul Jackson says, "Until online access is near-universal in the UK, no reductions can be made in the current voting infrastructure."

Such a move would further disadvantage the section of society that is not yet online, he said.

Forrester's research found that public concerns over security could hinder the implementation of online voting.

Jackson said, "With so many vested interests at stake in a general election it is important that any electronic voting system is not only secure, but also seen to be secure. This is not yet the case."

Forrester underlined the fact that there is now stringent data protection legislation, as well as encryption systems available from suppliers such as VeriSign and Baltimore Technologies.

The problem is not about the technologies but about convincing the public that e-voting is safe, he said.

There is growing worldwide demand for online voting. Last year 45% of voters used the Internet to register their votes in Arizona's Democratic presidential primary election.

The Forrester survey suggests that the UK is following this trend. Half of the 750 respondents indicated that they would be prepared to vote via the Internet in a general election or a local election.

Jackson said, "One fifth of UK voters are ready to use the Internet for voting today, that is more than have ever shopped online."

James Rogers
james.rogers@rbi.co.uk

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