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LOCAL ELECTIONS: NEW VOTING METHODS SHOW EARLY PROMISE

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New voting methods being piloted in the local council elections appear to have been a success, early indications sh...
New voting methods being piloted in the local council elections appear to have been a success, early indications show. In some areas, postal voting may have helped to as much as doubled turnout.

The government announced 30 pilot schemes across the country from postal ballots to phone and internet voting after just 59% voted in the last general election and 28% at the 1998 local elections - the lowest ever.

A recent ICM poll predicted this year's figure could drop as low as 25% prompting fears the BNP could capitalise as Jean-Marie Le Pen has done in France.

But early indications from a number of the pilot schemes show the drive to introduce new methods of voting could hold the key to restoring faith in democracy.

Turnout in Chorley BC, which is holding a full postal ballot, is likely to double the 32% turnout seen in May 2000. By Tuesday 53% of voters had returned ballot forms.

Martin O'Loughlin, the council's head of administration, said before the close of voting: 'It looks like a tremendous success.'

Rises had also been registered by Tuesday in other full postal ballots.

Stevenage BC had seen 46% turnout compared to 29% two years ago and Trafford MBC 42% compared to 33%. South Tyneside MBC's 46% turnout was higher than the average 27% overall turnout at previous elections.

Middlesbrough, the only all-postal ballot where there was also a mayoral election, had seen a 34% turnout by Tuesday, compared to 29% in previous elections.

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