Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2005/03/30/vote_tech/

Brits voice fraud fears over high-tech voting

MORI poll reveals love of ballot box

By Lucy Sherriff

Posted in Government, 30th March 2005 14:35 GMT

The vast majority of Brits think new, high-tech voting methods, such as voting by email or through a dedicated website, will make it easier to commit electoral fraud, according to research.

A MORI poll, commissioned by fraud specialists, Detica, also found that almost forty percent of the voting population in the UK is already concerned about election fraud. David Porter, head of security and risk at Detica, describes electoral fraud as "identity theft, pure and simple. Someone has taken over your voting account, if you like," he said.

Although many potential voters had not noticed that no proof of ID is required to vote at polling stations, nearly sixty per cent think identity cards are the solution to electoral fraud. Detica itself is slightly more circumspect, and stops short of calling for the introduction of compulsory ID cards.

Porter suggests that some kind of check on identity should be made when people turn up to vote at polling stations, but says that postal ballots are the most vulnerable target for would-be fraudsters, as recent events in Birmingham have demonstrated.

"The authentication regime for postal votes is very weak," he notes.

Three Labour councillors have appeared in a special Election Court, accused of vote rigging. The court heard that the men were caught handling unsealed postal ballots during the local elections in June last year. The Electoral Commission yesterday introduced a new code of conduct for those involved in handling postal votes in a bid to "minimise the risk or perception of fraud".

Detica's research, which was conducted before the Election Court convened, found that over half the population thought postal votes would make it easier to commit electoral fraud. These fears are even more widespread for other voting channels, with 74 and 66 per cent respectively expressing concern about voting by SMS and email.

Porter also warned against putting all faith in technology to solve this problem: "My advice to your readers would be to get down to the polling station and vote. I wouldn't pin your hopes on biometrics just yet," he said.

On the flip side, younger people did say that new voting channels would make them more likely to vote: with 51 per cent saying a dedicated website would encourage them out of their voter apathy. Touch screen voting booths were the exception here, with some respondents reporting that they would be less likely to vote if the government introduced these.

"People are more aware of fraud thanks to the publicity around phishing scams and so on," said Porter "If the government wants to introduce new voting channels, it needs to learn the security lessons of the big retailers and the banks." ®

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