Web and text vote trials dropped

Proposed trials of voting via Internet or text message in next year's local council elections have been scrapped by the government. Ministers had been considering holding more pilot schemes in all London boroughs in next year's polls. But Elections Minister Harriet Harman said: "We just think that the time is not right for it at the moment." Amid Conservative claims of a U-turn, the government says further trials are not being ruled out. Trial plans In 2002, the government unveiled an action plan, including pilot schemes, to allow an "electronically-enabled" general election to take place after 2006. But in a written parliamentary answer given at the end of last month to Conservative shadow constitutional affairs minister Oliver Heald, the government said trials of the system planned for next year had been scrapped. Ms Harman told BBC News there had been a "general consensus" among those consulted about the idea that the time was not right. A spokesman for the Department of Constitutional Affairs said: "We are not ruling out piloting e-voting in the future and any future plans will be taken forward at the appropriate time." 'Expensive' Mr Heald accused ministers of quietly slipping out news of what amounted to a U-turn over the "reckless" e-voting plans. He said: "Remote electronic voting is even more vulnerable than all-postal voting. "Not only are the Internet and text messaging insecure, but PIN numbers must still be sent by post to voters - and there is no way of confidently identifying that an electronic vote is being cast by the eligible voter. "This lack of an adequate audit trail is extremely worrying in the light of the risk of fraud already exposed with all-postal voting. "Past e-voting pilots in local elections have proved expensive and not delivered any significant increase in turnout." Turnout impact? E-voting was trialled during the 2003 local elections, with 17 councils offering up to 1.9 million voters the chance to vote via Internet kiosks, home computers, text message and digital TV. But in those elections, it was the areas offering low-tech postal voting which showed the greatest increases in turnout - with 160,000 people voting electronically. The Electoral Commission on Tuesday said pilot schemes were an important part of a trying to improve election turnout by electronic voting. But in a statement, the watchdog said: "We remain of the view that there should be no piloting of any new voting channels until a firm public commitment to the introduction of individual registration has been made." The commission wants people to register to vote individually rather than by household. Such a scheme would enable better security checks for electronic and other forms of voting, it argues. UKFast is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites.

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