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Brits want to vote online, dammit

But can we trust them?

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Cisco reckons that online voting is the way to get people to take part in elections. Survey firm YouGov, quizzed 2,136 UK adults about their voting habits, on Cisco's behalf. They found that 66 per cent of those who didn't vote in the last election reckoned they'd be more likely to join in on polling day if they could vote online.

The survey found that older non voters are more easily enticed to the democracy game: 74 per cent of non-voters over 50 said they would be more likely to vote if they could do so online. This fell to 65 per cent among the non-voting 18-29 year-old age group.

However, it is well known that people are more likely to plan to vote than they are to actually get to the voting booth on polling day. Could we all be similarly unjustified in our optimism that we'd vote if we could use a web browser?

Some think so: in March this year at a roundtable discussing the question of electronic voting, Ruth Turner, director of research firm Vision 21, noted that although technology has the potential to ramp up voting turnover, "there is always a gap between intent and action, particularly with younger voters".

Cisco's survey also probed the level of online interaction people had with the government, both local and central. Almost one in 10 reported paying council tax online, and just under a quarter said they'd used an NHS website to check health-related information.

However, we are not sure how well we trust the respondents. A whopping 16 per cent reported emailing their MP - a similar survey in March this year revealed that just one per cent of the population has done so.

Further, 81 per cent of them reckoned they voted in the last election. The voter turn-out in the 2005 election was, in fact, a rather paltry 61 per cent, according to the British Council. This is the second lowest turnout since 1959, beaten only by the 59.4 per cent who bothered to vote in 2001.

Still, we don't suppose Cisco minds too much, since the survey is being wheeled out to support the launch of "Connected Government in the UK". This is a series of essays about how technology is affecting government, written by "senior political figures around the world" according to the press release.

Let's hope the essays are a little more thoughtful than the research. ®

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