Local government in Liverpool and Sheffield are gearing up to allow citizens to vote using SMS text messages and the internet in elections to be held on 2 May.

"We are still going through all of the processes at the moment, but by 16 April all of 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 for Liverpool City Council today.

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

Liverpool council is hoping that by offering new convenient ways of voting, more people will be drawn to the polls, Griffiths said. All voters will be allowed to cast their votes over their mobile phones using SMS text messages while up to 20,000 voters in the Liverpool wards of Everton and Church will have the option of voting over the internet, Griffiths said.

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

In a recent PC Advisor online poll more than half of those responding said they'd like to vote online. And though this experiment looks promising, national-level implementation is still some distance off.

BT is overseeing the trials in Liverpool and in three wards in Sheffield. "There is 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 has been quite an involved process in terms of what councils were chosen for the pilot project," said BT.

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, BT said.

After the 2 May 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.

Along with voting using SMS and the internet, voters in Sheffield will be able to use the 'electronic kiosks' that are already being used throughout the city with smartcards that will be sent in the mail.

Voters will also be issued standard polling cards by mail that have their security numbers under foil to be scratched off by the voter. BT has also been running threat models to make sure the voting system is as secure as possible, including staging mock denial-of-service attacks.