Councils seek to boost election turnout by extending opportunities for electronic voting

Officials at South Tyneside Council hope that e-voting will help it to achieve a 60% turnout in next month's local elections.

Officials at South Tyneside Council hope that e-voting will help it to achieve a 60% turnout in next month's local elections.

Russ Cochrane, democratic services manager at the council, said, "We are hoping to reach the 'magic' 60% turnout. We have not set ourselves a target as such, but that figure, which is similar to the turnout in general elections, is a good thing to strive for."

Residents in South Tyneside will be able to vote via touch-tone phones, SMS text messaging, at electronic kiosks, on the internet and by post, as the council dispenses entirely with traditional polling stations.

The initiative follows a postal voting pilot project conducted during last year's local election which resulted in an increased turnout, bringing it up to 54%.

This year, the council will also offer local people an extended period in which to cast their votes, with voting starting this week.

Cochrane said, "We are determined, as far as possible, to increase the turnout. "It is a significant challenge but the electronic methods offer further oppor-tunities to provide choice to the electorate in their way of voting."

Meanwhile, Sheffield City Council has invited local residents to take part in what it describes as the world's largest government e-voting system for the May local elections. Building on the success of e-voting in last year's election, the council has extended the scheme from three to 15 of its 29 wards.

In addition to traditional polling stations and postal voting, Sheffield residents will be able to send text messages, vote from a touch-tone phone, vote online or at an electronic kiosk.

The councils are among 17 selected by the government to trial electronic methods of voting in the May local elections.

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