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There can be no retreat on finding new ways of voting, local government minster Nick Raynsford has said. ...
There can be no retreat on finding new ways of voting, local government minster Nick Raynsford has said.

Speaking at the launch of an exhibition of the technology being used in 18 pilot schemes for the 1 May elections, Mr Raynsford said they were the future of voting.

'This is all about giving the public more options for voting - and we do not think we will want to row back from that,' he said.

'We don't think we can say to people that they can only vote in the traditional way in a rickety booth in a church hall or school using a stubby pencil.'

On 1 May around 1.5 million people at 18 councils will have the chance to vote electronically using a variety of methods including interactive digital television, text messaging and by mobile phone.

Another 42 councils are piloting all-postal elections for some five million electors as they try to boost turnouts.

The government is putting almost £19m into the pilot schemes, but Mr Raynsford will not set a target for turnout.

He said turnout rose from 27% to 54% at South Tyneside last year in a postal pilot and the council was determined to build on that this time using text messaging and touch-screen kiosks.

David Wilcox (Lab) from the Local Government Association said: 'This is not a substitute for people using the ballot box, but hopefully it will improve turnout.'

Roger Creedon, chief executive of the Electoral Commission, said its responsibility was to evaluate the plots and report by the end of July.

Eight councils were represented at the exhibition in central London, and Alan Winchcombe of Swindon BC said a pilot last year had proved successful.

'We now want to get turnout even higher and get more people involved. We are making a particular effort to target the under-25s who are the most apathetic

age group,' he said.

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