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The Government is to press ahead with more evoting trials in 2004 despite mixed results during local elections earlier this year.

Trials are due to take place for next year's European Parliament elections. No doubt it's hoped that the trials will go some way to help cure voter apathy and increase turnout from the disappointing 24 per cent during the 1999 European Parliamentary elections.

Three regions in the UK are expected to pilot all-postal voting, with smaller-scale electronic voting trials expected to take place in one of those regions, the Government announced yesterday.

As part of the move towards different voting methods local authorities and other interested parties are being offered the chance to take part in a nine-week public consultation on the matter. The Government also unveiled new proposed legislation - the European Parliamentary and Local Elections (Pilots) Bill - to smooth the way for pilots.

In a statement Christopher Leslie, Minister at the Department for Constitutional Affairs, said: "It is both a continuation and an extension of our policy to modernise the electoral system and make voting more convenient and accessible to all.

"Previous pilots at local elections have been very successful and this Bill represents a significant scaling up of the programme to make voting easier and more practical."

In July, the electoral commission gave the thumbs up to postal voting after finding that turnout increased in those areas where it was tried.

"[But] in relation to electronic voting," said the commission, "we are clearly some way from the prospect of an e-enabled general election."

Among the issues the commission identified that needed more work was security and the prevention of electoral fraud.

However, it did recommend that the Government should continue to test evoting to "ensure that in the future, the mechanics of democracy are not regarded by considerable sections of the public as irrelevant and effectively redundant, even if there is widespread adoption of all-postal voting". ®

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