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The government has chosen 16 local authorities to experiment with new ways of voting in the forthcoming local elections.

Constitutional affairs secretary Lord Falconer this week announced a series of pilots as part of the government’s ongoing efforts to modernise the electoral system.

Falconer said the emphasis of the pilots was on finding new ways of administering the electoral process rather than changing the system wholesale.

The chosen councils will trial a number of innovations, including the increased use of electronic processes in voting.

Two of the chosen councils, Epping Forest and Newham, will trial a system for electronically checking the signatures on postal votes. The same authorities, plus Westminster and Lewisham councils, will also pilot new processes for e-counting ballots.

Other innovations under trial include voting in alternative locations such as shopping centres and rural locations to increase access for voters.

Falconer said: "[This] will build on past work and test how this can be refined to ensure confidence and support future use of technology to gain efficiencies in the administration of elections. This will also enable us to identify how technology can support counting in the different voting systems used in local authority and regional elections."

He added: "Some of these pilots will assist us in planning the implementation of the proposals in the Electoral Administration Bill, in ensuring the ongoing integrity of electoral mechanisms and in refining and developing the programme of work for ensuring electoral processes fit with the needs of modern lifestyles."

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