Sky Digital provides e-voting in pilot

Sky is running a pilot scheme that will enable its digital subscribers to vote in local elections via remote control.

The test is being run in conjunction with the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, with the intention to encourage more people to vote in local elections.

In 2001, 58 per cent 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 6.6 million 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 per cent of Shrewsbury's electorate has Sky Digital, with Kerrier's rising to almost 27 per cent.

The Sky Digital trials are part of a three-year initiative to test new e-voting channels. The initiative is also looking into telephone, online and postal voting.