Digital TV to play e-voting role

Will interactive TV succeed where the Internet and electronic kiosks failed last year, and boost voter turnout?

Residents of Swindon will be offered the opportunity to become the first people in Britain to vote by cable later this month.

A consortium involving NTL has created a secure Web site that can only be accessed from an NTL digital television. This site will allow NTL subscribers living in Swindon to choose their preferred candidate in the forthcoming local elections via their TV.

The interactive TV trial is one of many e-voting experiments taking place in May's local elections, and it has a particular focus on improving turnout.

E-voting trials were held in last year's local elections, and while they were a technological success they did not seem to increase the percentage of people who cast their vote.

Those behind the trial believe that interactive TV will make e-voting available to more people than other technologies, because digital TV is used by a wider range of the population than the Internet.They also believe that ease of use -- the fact that voters won't need to leave their armchair to register their preference -- is another important factor.

Swindon residents will also be able to vote by telephone, the Internet or at an e-voting kiosk, so it should be possible to measure the relative success of each method. E-voting will take place between 24 and 30 April, while the traditional ballot boxes will only be available on 1 May.

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