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E-voting as secure as an insecure thing

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Twelve councils are piloting voting over the internet in the local elections on Thursday, and the government has accepted there may be security problems with the system.

The Department of Constitutional Affairs (DCA) says it is aware of security holes, but still reckons it will be secure enough.

A briefing note from the DCA says: "We will not roll out anything that is not at least as secure as traditional channels."

In the wake of allegations that some 20,000 postal votes have disappeared from the register in Birmingham after investigations into postal vote fraud, this seems a quite brilliant piece of arse-covering.

The problems in Birmingham would have "shamed a banana republic", according to one High Court Judge. In some wards the number of postal votes has fallen by 80 per cent.

Jason Kitkat, evoting co-ordinator at the Open Rights Group, said: "Evoting is far more high risk - it's done at home so you need to secure the person's home PC - which is difficult, you need to secure the internet connection and secure the servers too. We're taking a wait and see approach but anyone with any knowledge of computer science would tell you it is less secure."

The 12 councils piloting the technology* are: Bedford Borough Council, Breckland District Council, Broxbourne Borough Council, Dover District Council, Gateshead Council, Rushmoor Borough Council, Sheffield City Council, Shrewsbury and Atcham Borough Council, South Bucks District Council, Stratford-on-Avon District Council and Warwick District Council, Sunderland City Council, and Swindon Borough Council.

If you live, and vote, in any of these wards please let us know how the voting goes - email the usual address by clicking on the byline at the top of this story, or leave a comment below.

*: Tim Atkinson from the Electoral Commission sent us the following email:

Just seen your article - to clarify, only five areas are piloting electronic voting (South Bucks, Rushmoor, Shrewsbury & Atcham, Swindon and Sheffield).

The Electoral Commission has a statutory obligation to evaluate the pilot schemes and is encouraging electors, candidates, agents and anyone else with an interest in the e-voting trials to tell us what they think.

Details of our consultation process (including downloadable questionnaires) can be found here: http://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/elections/pilotsmay2007.cfm

Yours sincerely

Tim Atkinson Policy Advisor ®

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