UK's first online voters go to the polls

Not all St Albans residents will have to trek to the nearest polling station to vote in next month's local elections -- some will be able to vote online instead this weekend

An e-voting trial being held this weekend will let people cast their votes online for next month's local elections.

Voters in Sopwell and Verulam, two electoral wards in St Albans, are taking part in the experiment. They will be able to vote online by visiting the Web site between 9pm Thursday 25 April and 9pm Saturday 27 April. The UK local elections are scheduled to be held on Thursday 2 May, but voting in these two wards has been brought forward.

The trial is an attempt to test ways of voting electronically. Public participation in the electoral process is perceived to be declining, and e-democracy advocates believe Internet voting could encourage more people to take part in the democratic process.

"The day has finally arrived when the electorate can actually use the electronic voting methods to determine the outcome of today's local elections," said the district council's returning officer, Mike Lovelady in a statement. "We are delighted with the reaction from the public so far and look forward to the count on the 2 May."

The St Alban's project is funded by the Department of Transport, Local Government and the Regions, with the involvement of Oracle and BT.

People who favour traditional methods and turn up at their local polling station on 2 May will also be offered a high-tech way of voting, as touch-screen machines are being installed in polling stations.

In an attempt to prevent malpractice, every Sopwell and Verulam voter has been issued with a unique "voter identification number", and will also have to enter a personal identification number (PIN) when placing their vote.

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