Councils in Liverpool and Sheffield are assembling the infrastructure to allow voters to vote using SMS (Short Message Service) text messages and the Internet in elections to be held May 2.

“We’re going through all of the processes at the moment, but by April 16, the technology should be in place and we’ll be taking calls from people looking to sign up for voting by SMS,” said Carol Griffiths, a spokeswoman for Liverpool City Council.

The technology will go live on April 25, about a week before the local elections, she said.

Liverpool council is hoping that by offering more convenient ways of voting, more people will be drawn to the polls. In additionto those voting via their mobile phones, up to 20,000 voters in the Liverpool wards of Everton and Church will also have the option of voting over the Internet, Griffiths said.

Hopes of higher turnouts In the Liverpool local elections of 2000, Everton and Church had voter turnouts of 14.5 percent and 24.5 percent respectively, Griffiths said.

British Telecom (BT) is overseeing the trials in Liverpool and in three wards in Sheffield. “There’s quite a range of security measures being put in place for the various technologies needed for SMS, Internet, and voting by digital telephone. We announced the project in February, and it’s been quite an involved process in terms of which councils were chosen for the pilot project,” said BT spokeswoman Sarah Thomas.

Security will primarily be in the form of PINs (personal identification numbers) and numerical passwords that will be sent to the home address of the voter, Thomas said.

After the May 2 elections, the success of the voting methods will be assessed to see if they should be used on a broader basis across the UK in future local or national elections, said Thomas.