FIPR highlights e-voting risks
Trojan horses, proxy votes
Electronic voting systems such as those being trialled in today's local government elections could lead to major problems and undermine public confidence in the electoral process, an UK Internet think-tank warns.
The UK government plans to introduce e-voting in the general election after next. Byt the Foundation for Information Policy Research (FIPR) says it is vital for the democratic process that this is done securely and in a way that commands the trust of the voters.
FIPR points out that election integrity can be assured only if e-voting machines produce a paper audit trail which can be verified by voters and later by election scrutineers.
It says this is not the case when votes are cast via SMS from mobiles or from insecure home PCs, as in the trials taking place in 18 local authorities during today's local elections.
According to the FIPR, voting machines must be placed squarely under the control of local election officials, who have a better chance of ensuring they are free from viruses or other malicious software which could monitor and corrupt votes.
Without such precautions, it will be impossible to prove afterwards that an election was carried out correctly, the FIPR claims.
If problems occur, levels of public mistrust could make Florida voters' worries about "hanging chad" look trivial.
FIPR director Dr Ian Brown said: "The only safe way to allow electronic voting is through machines controlled by election officials that produce an auditable paper trail. Anything else is an invitation for fraud to hackers and virus writers around the world, and could destroy public confidence in our elections."
FIPR chair Dr Ross Anderson comments: "It's always a bad idea to look for technical fixes to social problems. Election turnout would be increased if citizens were convinced their vote would make a difference. Simply computerising the current system is unlikely to achieve this."
Every new system can be expected to display teething troubles. E-voting is no exception to this rule.
Reg reader Joe Otten wanted to vote in person at a polling station in Sheffield. When he tried to vote at the polling station closest to his place of work he was told "he couldn't vote there because they couldn't connect their computer up".
Joe had to drive 10 minutes to an alternative polling station, where he was successfully able to cast his vote. ®