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VOTING NEEDS TO BE IN TUNE WITH MODERN LIFESTYLES

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The European Parliamentary and Local Elections (Pilots) Bill* has been welcomed by the Local Government Association...
The European Parliamentary and Local Elections (Pilots) Bill* has been welcomed by the Local Government Association as an opportunity to modernise voting methods and test innovative approaches in large communities.

LGA vice chair Sandy Bruce-Lockhart said:

'There is no doubt that the problem of low turn-outs in local, national and European elections needs to be addressed. Traditional methods of voting need supplementing in order to match modern lifestyles. Change must be allowed to encourage more people to vote. Local councils are already experimenting with all-postal voting which has proved to be successful, and e-voting, and these now need to be tested over larger areas.

'We do need however to get the issue in proportion. The challenge for democracy, and for all political parties, is not just making it easier to vote, most importantly it is about giving people something to vote for. It is about politicians being credible and relevant to people's lives and organisations.

'It's local government's job to do this and central government can assist by returning more powers to a local level so that councils can have a greater impact in their communities.

'We have concerns about e voting on a regional basis, particularly in the short space of time between now and the next elections.

'A failed e-voting pilot in 2004 could jeopardise this being seen as a realistic development for the future. We need to be sure that the public will have faith in any new voting methods that are introduced in order to continue to build on the success of the all-postal voting this year,' he continued.

Since councils in pilot regions which have local elections at the same time will be required to run their elections on the same pilot basis as the European elections, it is important that they are supportive of the trial.

The consultation period launched on 17 September seeking views on piloting methods at the next European and local elections is a welcome invitation for the LGA to discuss these concerns with central government.

* full details of the Bill are here.

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