E-voting: abandoned by the Dutch, delayed in the UK

Michael Cross writes in The Guardian:

The Netherlands, which in 2004 and 2006 enthusiastically promoted e-voting for overseas voters as a step towards an all-electronic election, will next year revert to paper ballots. The U-turn followed a successful campaign by a group opposed to all electronic polling machines: its tactics included buying a couple of machines to crack their software.

Leontine Loeber, of the Dutch Electoral Council, told this summer’s European Electronic Voting conference in Austria that it is a mistake to treat voting as just another transaction that can be computerised in the quest for efficiency and modernity. Unlike banking, in elections every voter must in principle be able to verify that the system works correctly. And unlike banking, a voting system cannot tolerate an occasional error once in a while. A bank can refund victims of errors; a government cannot refund votes. A few such errors, and trust in the whole institution is gone. Ask Al Gore…

Michael Wills, the minister charged with constitutional reform, conceded to Parliament last month that no new pilots of e-voting are planned. However, further work on e-voting “will be funded as necessary”. He said the government is still “taking stock” of previous local pilots.

Although he doesn’t mention it, the further work will, civil servants tell me, particularly focus on audit trails for e-voting and e-counting systems. Given the likely persistence of ecounting in both Scotland and London, both of which have had ecounting systems with noticeably poor audit trails, that is at least progress of a sort.

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