The Polling Place In Your Pocket
By Eric Lin, Sat Oct 16 01:00:00 GMT 2004

Many cellular subscribers already user their handsets to vote for the next Pop Idol or Survivor. If the mayor of London gets his way, they might use their mobile to vote for someone more important -- their next leader.

The UK's eGovernment initiative was created to help local councils develop a closer relationship with residents using computing tools. Many of these local agencies have chosen mobile phones as their platform of choice, creating applications for government workers and citizens alike. The majority of mobile services available to residents have been relatively passive - reminders about appointments or notices about bus routes. But if London mayor Ken Livingstone gets his way, residents of the UK's largest city may be using their phones to take part in government, not just receive messages from it.

Livingstone would like to implement electronic voting systems in Greater London by the next mayoral election in 2008. Unlike the US, where electronic voting efforts are focused on using new technology in the traditional polling places, Livingstone is proposing an e-voting system that would allow citizens to make their choice from anywhere -- using a large variety of media. In addition to home-based options like Internet connected PCs and interactive digital TV, plans call for voting by mobile phones and text messages.

Proponents are hoping that an evoting system will reverse a trend of voter apathy and poor turn outs. It seems they are hoping the London elections become new the Pop Idol -- they are proposing using the same technologies to select a contest winner, after all. But unlike Pop Idol and Big Brother, making sure that only registered citizens get to vote, and vote only once is critical. Despite problems and security concerns that have beset American electronic voting efforts, even without remote voting technology, there is a great deal of confidence that these will be solved by the time London's system is implemented.