Government trials interactive voting on Sky Digital

LONDON - Sky Digital is running a pilot scheme, in conjunction with the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, for its digital subscribers to vote in local elections via their remote control.

The test is being run, with the intention of encouraging more people to vote in local elections. In 2001, 58% of the electorate participated in the general election, with figures for local elections normally much lower.

If the trial is successful it is possible the service could be extended nationwide next year, in time for the next general election. This will enable Sky's 6.6m digital satellite subscribers to vote via their remote control.

The service allows voters an extended two-week period to vote any time day or night. Voters press the interactive button on their Sky remote and then choose the UK Online service, which provides interactive viewers with government information.

Electors then choose the voting option, and are asked to provide a secure voter ID number as identity. This number is issued to the voter by two separate mailings. They can then vote for the candidate of their choice, which is sent down the telephone line to be counted. They can only vote once.

The test is being carried out in local elections in Shrewsbury and at Kerrier in Cornwall. Around 25% of Shrewsbury's electorate has Sky Digital, with Kerrier's rising to almost 27%.

The Sky trials are part of a three-year initiative to test new e-voting channels. Telephone, online and postal voting are also being tested.

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