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St Albans e-voting trial goes horribly wrong. Almost

Jury's Out

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It's still too early to say whether evoting helped increase the number of people taking part in last night's local elections in England.

The Electoral Commission reports that local authorities trialling all-postal pilot schemes saw turnout rise to an average of 50 per cent compared to an average voter turnout of around 33 per cent.

But early indications show that electronic voting - by telephone, text messaging, digital TV and the Net - did not have the same impact on turnout as postal pilots, said the Electoral Commission today.

A report into yesterday's evoting trial is expected to be published in July. No doubt it will contain a sizeable explanation concerning the goings-on in St Albans.

For although more people voted in yesterday's local elections in St Albans compared to last year, there were red faces all round after the technology on trial went on the blink.

The local election vote was thrown into confusion with the St Albans Observer reporting that things got so bad it almost led to the vote being declared null and void.

The problem centred on the Presiding Officers' PCs, which are designed to check the electoral roll as voters entered the polling station.

Some of the PCs in the voting booths - which gave punters the chance to vote online - also suffered hiccups.

As a result, voters were forced to resort to traditional methods of voting - a piece of paper and a crayon.

BT - the outfit behind the St Albans trial - said the computers which "experienced faults" were "installed by one of the contractors employed by BT to deliver technology and services to the local authorities".

Normal service was resumed at around 5pm yesterday afternoon.

The local council today confirmed that turnout in St Albans was up five per cent to 43 per cent compared to last year.

According to research published recently by the Electoral Commission, half of adults reckon technology could make the difference to them voting or not. ®

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