Online voting could be answer to electorate apathy

Cable firm ntl finds half of employees would be more inspired by politics if they could vote from their PC screens

As voter apathy casts a shadow over Thursday's general election, a survey from cable firm ntl has found that over 50 percent of office staff would be more likely to participate if they could vote on the Internet.

Current forecasts predict we are about to witness the lowest election turn-out since the First World War -- with only two-thirds of registered voters bothering to go to the polls. However, if we could vote online from the workplace it would inspire greater participation in the democratic process, ntl found. For its research the company interviewed employees at 200 UK firms.

Chris Hutching, managing director of ntl Business, believes the apathy is not due to a reluctance to vote but a lack of a convenient means to do so. And technology could play a vital role, he thinks. "It's vital that the public feel motivated to vote in elections and as we move further into the digital age it's imperative that we find new ways to bring the election to the electorate. Longer working hours coupled with juggling family commitments means visiting a polling station simply isn't possible for many voters," he said.

Some local councils have already dabbled in online polling and Forrester analyst Caroline Sceats believes some form of national e-voting will be in place by the next election. However the process is not without problems. "It has to be clear that people are only voting once and that they are who they say they are and for this some form of digital signature will have to be widespread," she said.

In the long term, Sceats believes that e-voting can fundamentally change the democratic process. "At the moment the plan is just to move existing democratic processes onto the Internet but the Internet is an increasingly powerful tool for direct action politics and potentially in the future we will have a political system where people express their opinions more easily and more often," she said.

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