VOTERS in the Darlington borough could be electing councillors by email in the next elections, as part of an attempt to increase the voter turnout level to 40 per cent.

Polling stations could also be abolished under the scheme, which aims to address the dramatic decline in voting levels.

Voters of the future may never have to visit a polling station, but instead will register their votes by post.

Darlington Borough Council is holding a meeting on Tuesday so councillors can have their say on the authority applying to be part of a pilot scheme for the local elections in May next year.

If Darlington is chosen to take part in the voting experiment, there will be simplified, all-postal voting forms, and a longer period to allow people to send in their votes.

When voting forms are sent out, they will include a pre-paid envelope to encourage more people to return them.

Electors can also hand in their ballot papers to the town hall, or a number of locations in the area.

The Government is also looking at introducing electronic voting using the Internet, which could be part of the town's pilot scheme.

Pilot schemes running during the May elections this year secured significant increases in voter turnout in some areas, the Electoral Commission found.

Despite widespread public concern about the potential for election fraud, the commission found no evidence of misconduct.

The aim of the scheme is to make voting an easier process, to increase efficiency and cost-effectiveness and to reduce fraud levels.

Councillor John Williams, the leader of Darlington council, said: "The turnout in Darlington for local elections is better than the national average.

"But we still want to improve that. We believe that postal votes will make it much easier for more people to cast their votes."

A council spokesman stressed that the scheme has not been approved yet.

He said: "The council has to agree to apply to be part of the pilot scheme, then be approved by the Government to take part in it.