University of Glasgow trialling text-message voting system

Computer scientists from the University of Glasgow are holding the first public trial of a cheap, reliable text-message voting system which could allow local authorities to more easily gather feedback from the public.

Dr Paul Cockshott, Dr Karen Renaud and Tsvetelina Valcheva have developed the Handivote system, which they are using to independently gauge levels of support for a contested development plan for the site of North Kelvin Meadow in Glasgow. Glasgow City Council will sell the 1.4-hectare site to developers if their recently-submitted planning application is successful, raising objections from local people.

Around 3,000 residents of the area have been mailed a unique PIN which will allow them to send a text message from their mobile phone to securely and anonymously register whether they support or are against the proposed development. Once voting closes at midday on Sunday 31 March, the results will be tallied by computer and be posted shortly afterwards on the Handivote website at

This is the first time the system has been tested by the general public after successful trials on the University campus, which have determined a name for a robot purchased by the School of Computing Science and helped to more democratically decide how department funding is allocated.

Dr Cockshott said: “We’re pleased to be able to offer local people the chance to register their opinion using the Handivote system.  It was designed to make it easy for for ordinary citizens to participate in the democratic process outside of elections.

“Once the vote is over, voters can use their unique PIN to check online that their vote was counted correctly to protect against fraud.

“We’re hoping that trials such as these will make a good case for the usefulness of the Handivote system and encourage local authorities and the Scottish Government to use it for  referenda in the future.”

The area in question is the former Clouston St football pitches, part of Kelbourne St school before it closed.  Local residents seeded the area with grass and planted trees and now it is a mix of grass and trees, many over 40 feet high, and known locally as The North Kelvin Meadow and Children's Wood

The question being asked of voters is ‘Issue: Whether or not to build on the land surrounded by Clouston, Sanda and Kelbourne Streets’, with the available responses ‘Don’t Build’ or ’Build,.

Once the votes are counted, the result will be sent by the research team as an independent representation to the Planning Officer for the currently lodged application, as well as the developers and the North Kelvin Meadow Campaign. The result will also be texted back to all those who took part, and posted on the Handivote website.

The poll closes at midday on Sunday March 31st. For more information on the Handivote system, visit

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For more information contact Ross Barker in the University of Glasgow Media Relations Office on 0141 330 3535 or email


First published: 28 March 2013

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