My right hon. and noble Friend the Secretary of State and Lord Chancellor has made the following written ministerial statement:
The Government are continuing to look at ways to modernise our electoral system and to increase the opportunities that people have to vote. To test the effectiveness and robustness of these innovations and to build public confidence in them, we are continuing to conduct a programme of pilots in 2007 which maintains the momentum that was started in 2000.
With this aim in mind, in the middle of October 2006 we issued a prospectus in conjunction with the Electoral Commission, inviting expressions of interest from local authorities seeking to run electoral pilots at the May 2007 local elections in England.
Today I am pleased to announce that I have accepted 12 applications from local authorities to hold pilots at the May 2007 local elections. The names of the successful local authorities are attached at the end of this statement. A background paper providing further details on the pilots has been placed in the House Library.
The local authorities will pilot innovations including:
the re-commencement of e-voting pilots on a small and controlled scale, testing a number of avenues including internet, telephone voting and the use of ‘centralised all-elections’ facilities at polling stations for advance and polling day voting which will enable us to explore the impact of this important part of the modernisation agenda.
electronic counting of ballot papers which will build on past work and test how this can be refined to ensure confidence and support future use of technology to gain efficiencies in the administration of elections. This will also enable us to identify how technology can support counting in different sized authorities and voting systems used in local authority and regional elections.
a number of pilots that will provide further evidence about the benefits of advance voting on a cumulative basis, including three local authorities (Sunderland, Gateshead and Broxbourne) that did this last year. That will enable us to see if advance voting shows increased use on a year-on-year basis and help inform decisions about the value of allowing advance voting as a general provision.
as part of these pilots we have asked local authorities if they would be willing to include signing in polling stations. All are happy to do so in the advance voting period, and Bedford and Sunderland are also willing to do so on polling day.
To support those pilots that will be utilising electronic services, we have undertaken a rigorous procurement exercise and have established a framework of suitable suppliers for the piloting authorities to use.
The next step will be for us, working in consultation with the Electoral Commission and the local authorities, to draw up the statutory orders authorising the pilots.
The Electoral Commission also has a statutory duty to evaluate every pilot scheme, and report its findings within three months of the election. The Commission will submit individual evaluation reports on each pilot scheme to the Secretary of State and the local authority concerned.
We are grateful to all local authorities that applied to pilot in May 2007 and are keen to continue to engage local authorities in looking at innovative ways to improve the elections process and take advantage of new technologies.
Bedford Borough Council
Borough of Broxbourne
Dover District Council
Rushmoor Borough Council
Sheffield City Council
Shrewsbury and Atcham Borough Council
South Bucks District Council
Stratford-on-Avon District Council and Warwick District Council (joint application)
Sunderland City Council
Swindon Borough Council