CYBER BYPASS TO POLLING BOOTHS; the Local Council Elections Take Place on Thursday Week. Political Reporter JANE WOODHEAD Starts Our Six Part Focus with a Look at the Issues in Liverpool

Article excerpt

Byline: JANE WOODHEAD

KAREN MILLER will not be voting in this year's local council elections.

But this is nothing new for Karen, who has not voted for more than 20-years.

She did vote when she was a teenager but says this was because it was a novelty.

Karen, 45, from Huyton, added: "I suppose that novelty lasted for about four years. It was all about the excitement of being old enough to vote."

She says part of the reason she has not voted in recent years is because of the inconvenience.

"I would leave for work at 6.30am and on a Thursday when the elections are held I always went to see a friend after work. I was just never around when the polling booths were open."

Liverpool city council is however hoping that by leading the way with text and e-mail voting it will help win over stawaway voters such as Karen in next Thursday's elections.

E-voting is being tested in two wards: Everton, which had one of the lowest turnouts in the country at 15.89% in the last elections in 2000 and Church, which had a 24.52% turnout.

Voters will also be able to cast their votes using text messaging, e-mail and landline phones from 9am on Friday.

Robin Cook, the leader of the Commons, has said he will examine whether the trials are successful enough to merit internet voting at the next general election.

Strict security measures will be in place when the evoting gets under way in Liverpool.

Everyone who is eligible to vote in the pilot areas will receive a sealed ballot card.

This will include a code which people will have to register when they vote.

The individual codes will initially have to be entered on the mobile phone or computer before the voter is asked for their choice of candidate.

People will also be able to vote on landline phones, where they will also have to initially enter a security code before registering their vote.

Facilities for voting via e-mail will also be provided in libraries and One Stop Shops for people who do not have a computer at home.

As soon as people vote, their security code will be removed from the system preventing them voting again.

The view from the town hall

COUNCIL leader Mike Storey said: "We are pleased to reduce council tax so that people can afford to live in our city. Aggressive begging, yobs on the streets and burglary are getting immediate attention.

"Our anti-social behaviour unit is being doubled, our Gold Zone police are taking action against aggressive beggars, and we have the biggest programme of alley gating in the country. …