E-voting trials will test the public's enthusiasm

An independent review body has urged caution before e-voting is widely used in UK elections.

An independent review body has urged caution before e-voting is widely used in UK elections.

The report from the Independent Commission on Alternative Voting Methods last week called for much greater experimentation with new technologies before their widespread use in the UK.

Stephen Coleman, who chairs the commission, said, it had "taken a long, cool, calm look at a range of alternative methods of voting and wants to see a gradual approach to testing and implementing them".

Public confidence in the electoral process must be top of the agenda, he said.

The commission was established by the Electoral Reform Society to look at the new technologies and innovations that are proposed for public elections in the UK.

Last week the Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions gave the go-ahead for 30 councils to run pilot tests on new ways of voting and counting in the local and mayoral elections which will take place on 2 May.

Internet voting from home, local libraries and council-run information kiosks will be tested in parts of Crewe, Nantwich, St Albans and Swindon. Other schemes include e-voting via digital television and mobile phone text messaging in parts of Liverpool and Sheffield.

Alan Winchcombe, deputy returning officer for Swindon Borough Council, explained, "The only way we will find out whether people want Internet voting is to give them the opportunity to do it." An evaluation exercise will take place after the election, he added.

There is growing world-wide demand for online voting. In 2000, despite computer glitches, 45% of US voters used the Internet to register their votes in Arizona's presidential primary election.

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