Feeds

UK watchdog calls for an end to 'piecemeal' e-voting trials

Stop messing about

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

The Electoral Commission has called for the end of "piecemeal" telephone and internet voting pilots in the UK until improvements in security and testing are put in place.

The independent voting watchdog said on Thursday that further trials have little merit until the government has set out a strategy for modernising the electoral system and making it more secure.

The recommendation follows a detailed evaluation of electoral pilots held at this May's local elections. The elections watchdog said that, while a good deal has been learned from pilots in the last seven years, there is little benefit in continuing the process until a clear plan for changing the way elections are run is formulated.

Thirteen local authorities in England ran pilot schemes commissioned by the Ministry of Justice. The trials involved pilots of electronic voting, voting in advance of polling day, electronic counting, and signing for ballot papers at the polling station.

The trials were far from smooth. Difficulties with electronic counting technology in Breckland, Stratford-on Avon, and Warwick resulted in the electronic count being abandoned in favour of a traditional manual count in these areas. Electronic counting in the other pilot areas was completed although it was slower than expected. The commission blames these problems on "limited testing and insufficient planning prior to the election".

Advance voting, which allowed electors in Gateshead, Sunderland, Bedford, Sheffield, and Broxbourne to vote on various days before polling day, was well implemented, but actual take-up among the electorate was low. Signing for ballot papers took place in Gateshead, Sunderland, Bedford, and Broxbourne and operated without problems. However, the commission questioned the value of the process because without individual registration there's nothing to check signatures against.

Voter registration drive

The commission has set out a list of recommendations based on its evaluation of the trials. Key findings include a call for individual voter registration in future electronic voting schemes, improvements in testing and procurement, and improved security. Above all, the commission wants to see a clear strategy for telephone and internet voting from the government.

Peter Wardle, chief executive of the Electoral Commission, said: "We have learnt a good deal from pilots over the past few years. But we do not see any merit in continuing with small-scale, piecemeal piloting where similar innovations are explored each year without sufficient planning and implementation time, and in the absence of any clear direction, or likelihood of new insights.

"We welcome the recent government green paper on constitutional reform; and we believe this needs to be supported by a clear plan for modernising elections. We continue to believe that the security of our electoral process needs to be strengthened through a system of individual registration," he added.

The commission's report raised concerns about low public confidence in the security of internet and telephone voting and electronic voting along with ease of use issues.

Always look on the bright side

Election minister Michael Wills said the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) would study the Electoral Commission's report. The MoJ defended the security and integrity of the trials despite the commission's criticism. "We are pleased that the evaluations point to a high level of system security and user confidence in e-voting systems tested and that the security and integrity of the polls was not compromised," he told the BBC.

"These evaluations point to instances where e-counting and e-voting have worked well, and where electors choose to vote remotely by internet or telephone they often had favourable responses to these innovations. The purpose of pilots is to learn lessons for the future and we will do so," he added.

The Open Rights Group - a pressure group whose volunteers monitored the May elections - welcomed the commission's proposed moratorium on testing, but said this was insufficient. Electronic voting schemes are inherently flawed and ought to be sidelined, it argues.

"We're pleased that the commission has recognised the desperate need for public debate about the role technology might play in our electoral system. We're also satisfied that the detail of the commission's reports... but we're disappointed that the fundamental challenges in using computers for elections have not been fully recognised by the report." ®

New hybrid storage solutions

More from The Register

next story
JINGS! Microsoft Bing called Scots indyref RIGHT!
Redmond sporran metrics get one in the ten ring
Phones 4u slips into administration after EE cuts ties with Brit mobe retailer
More than 5,500 jobs could be axed if rescue mission fails
Murdoch to Europe: Inflict MORE PAIN on Google, please
'Platform for piracy' must be punished, or it'll kill us in FIVE YEARS
Driving with an Apple Watch could land you with a £100 FINE
Bad news for tech-addicted fanbois behind the wheel
Phones 4u website DIES as wounded mobe retailer struggles to stay above water
Founder blames 'ruthless network partners' for implosion
Found inside ISIS terror chap's laptop: CELINE DION tunes
REPORT: Stash of terrorist material found in Syria Dell box
OECD lashes out at tax avoiding globocorps' location-flipping antics
You hear that, Amazon, Google, Microsoft et al?
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Security and trust: The backbone of doing business over the internet
Explores the current state of website security and the contributions Symantec is making to help organizations protect critical data and build trust with customers.