NEXT year's elections in Hyndburn will be all postal for the first time in a bid to increase voter turnout.

The innovative pilot postal voting scheme has been approved by the government.

The scheme will mean everyone who is eligible to vote next May will automatically receive a ballot paper through the post.

They will use them to register their vote by posting it back to the council or delivering it to one of several drop-off points across the borough.

Hyndburn was one of 63 local authorities in England to apply to conduct a pilot, and one of 33 granted permission to hold an all-postal vote. The government will decide on applications for electronic voting schemes after Christmas. A handful of councils, including Chorley, held similar pilots last year and turnout increased to more than 60 per cent.

If successful it could signal the end of the road for the traditional polling stations and the one-day rush to beat the voting deadline. Voters will have up to two weeks to cast their vote and return the ballot paper.

The move is part of the government's effort to increase voter turnout on polling day, and particularly targets younger voters.

At this year's local elections the turnout in Hyndburn was 35.8 per cent -- just over a third -- and experience elsewhere has shown that postal voting increases the turnout by an average of 15 per cent.

It is thought to work because it gives people the chance to cast their vote at home at a time most convenient to them, and is especially helpful to people who work or can't easily get to a polling station.

The council will be taking extra measures to make sure the election is fair. Each ballot paper will be bar coded and will be scanned into a computer when it is returned. The computer will be able to tell if a ballot paper is faked or photocopied but it won't know how someone has voted.

After the election, the elections office will also carry out a survey of people who voted to see whether they were happy with the process.

An information leaflet will be sent to everyone eligible explaining the new system and a helpline number will be available during the election.

Mike Chambers, the council's chief executive, said: "We are pleased that our application to run the scheme was successful. The aim of the scheme is to get more people in Hyndburn to vote, and we hope that the convenience of postal voting will mean that more people who usually struggle to get to the polling station will find it easier."

Acting council leader Councillor Jean Battle said: "It's brilliant. It's more inclusive -- everyone can have a postal vote, and hopefully the turnout will be quite high."

Councillors in 12 of Hyndburn's 16 wards will stand for election in May, with Peel, Spring Hill, St Andrews and Netherton not included, giving a potential electorate of 46,348.