UK company to test voting by phone

Voting by internet, while the subject of intense interest in recent years, is still many years away from becoming a widespread reality. But this month a UK company will experiment with voting by mobile phone, in conjunction with the country's general election on June 7.

          Voting by internet, while the subject of intense interest in recent years, is still many years away from becoming a widespread reality. But this month a UK company will experiment with voting by mobile phone, in conjunction with the country’s general election on June 7.

          Boltblue, which claims to be the UK’s largest mobile portal site, will begin promoting an "SMS election" starting this week. The company’s "election" is really more of an opinion poll, as it will have no binding effect on the election. Still, the company promises that its technology is representative, reliable and accurate, and its CEO, Michael Brown, predicts: "We fully expect our members to reveal the mood of the nation in advance of polling day."

          Boltblue will poll its members on a variety of issues, and then ask for a general indication of how they will vote two days before British voters actually go to the polls.

          Boltblue’s effort has been endorsed by the UK’s Liberal Democratic Party. "The use of new secure technology is something that we should be considering to encourage more people to vote," says Charles Kennedy, leader of the LDP. "I am pleased to welcome Boltblue’s mobile-phone election, especially because it will make more young people aware of the current general election."

          Voter apathy, particularly among the young, is increasingly a subject of concern in the UK. There is some evidence to suggest that those under 25 would be more likely to vote if they could do so by phone. One market research firm found this month that nearly half of 18-to-24-year-olds who plan on not voting say they would vote if they could do so by mobile phone.

          The ubiquity of mobile phones in many European nations makes this a more likely voting platform than the PC-based internet. However, an actual binding vote done over mobile phones would be subject to myriad security and fraud concerns, just as net voting experiments conducted by companies like Election.com have been.

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