June 20th, 2007 at 15:40 UTC by Richard Clayton
Back on May 3rd, Steven Murdoch, Chris Wilson and myself acted as election observers for the Open Rights Group (ORG) and looked at the conduct of the parish, council and mayoral elections in Bedford. Steven and I went back again on the 4th to observe their “eCounting” of the votes. In fact, we were still there on the 5th at half-one in the morning when the final result was declared after over fifteen hours.
Far from producing faster, more accurate, results, the eCounting was slower and left everyone concerned with serious misgivings — and no confidence whatsoever that the results were correct.
Today ORG launches its collated report into all of the various eVoting and eCounting experiments that took place in May — documenting the fiascos that occurred not only in Bedford but also in every other place that ORG observed. Their headline conclusion is “The Open Rights Group cannot express confidence in the results for areas observed” — which is pretty damning.
In Bedford, we noted that prior to the shambles on the 4th of May the politicians and voters we talked to were fairly positive about “e” elections — seeing it as inevitable progress. When things started to go wrong they then changed their minds…
However, there isn’t any “progress” here, and almost everyone technical who has looked at voting systems is concerned about them. The systems don’t work very well, they are inflexible, they are poorly tested and they are badly designed — and then when legitimate doubts are raised as to their integrity there is no way to examine the systems to determine that they’re working as one would hope.
We rather suspect that people are scared of being seen as Luddites if they don’t embrace “new technology” — whereas more technical people, who are more confident of their knowledge, are prepared to assess these systems on their merits, find them sadly lacking, and then speak up without being scared that they’ll be seen as ignorant.
The ORG report should go some way to helping everyone understand a little more about the current, lamentable, state of the art — and, if only just a little common sense is brought to bear, should help kill off e-Elections in the UK for a generation.