Scope calls for online voting to assist disabled voters

The BBC reports:

Online voting should be introduced to assist disabled voters after access to polling stations failed to improve for this year’s election, a charity said.

A Scope survey suggested more than two thirds of the general election polling stations failed basic access tests.

Ms Scott [of Scope] said the country’s voting system “isn’t working for other voters either,” demonstrated by “scores of people queuing outside polling stations” at the recent general election.

“Over the last decade there has been next to no improvement in the overall accessibility of polling stations or postal voting,” she said.

“There is a pressing need for clearer accountability over how elections are delivered, to help improve the accessibility of current voting methods, as well as expanding these to include alternative methods.

“Unless this happens disabled people will continue to struggle to exercise their right to vote.

“In a digital age where people can vote by text for the X-Factor and shop and bank online, our voting system really needs to catch up.”

Although Scope’s report highlights a significant problems, the proposed solution – online and text voting – would bring its own major problems. Both have been tested out in the UK in a series of pilots with mixed results. Although the pilot series was often popular with the public, it has also been unpopular with many IT security experts who doubt the security of such voting methods, the systems were often unreliable and they were far more expensive than traditional voting methods. They also did not raise turnout significantly. For a good recent summary of the case against these sorts of new voting methods see Jason Kitcat’s blog post.

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This entry was posted in Election law.
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4 Comments

  • Ian Eiloart 25th Jun '10 - 4:52pm

    Although online voting might not increase turnout, the security problems are infinitely worse than electronic voting booths, which are bad enough. Everyone on earth has access to an online voting system, and it only takes one enthusiastic script kiddie to screw it all up.

  • Andrew Suffield 25th Jun '10 - 6:00pm

    It’s not that easy to attack serious online voting systems. The problems are more insidious. Firstly, you probably can’t have a robustly secure voting system that also strongly preserves voter anonymity, which is considered to be an important feature of our current system.

    Secondly, auditing of the voting system has to be done at arms length. Our current system allows all interested parties to observe and ensure that votes are being counted fairly. An online voting system is much harder to monitor, with more scope for underhanded behaviour.

    (In the US they have taken the disturbing approach of not auditing the system at all – many of the electronic voting machines do not even receive an independent security audit, and the political parties are not allowed any observation or cross-checking)

  • Whats wrong with getting a postal vote?

  • Matthew Huntbach 28th Jun '10 - 1:57pm

    I work as a university lecturer in Computer Science, and everyone I know who works in this field and with whom I have discussed this agrees that elections should NOT be done on-line, they MUST be done by a paper-based system.

    People who work in the field know more than others about the difficulty of being absolutely sure the results delivered by the computer reflect the votes given and preserve anonymity.

    The current system we use means lay observers can track the progress of a ballot paper from it being cast to it being counted. If you are a teller on a polling station as it opens, you are entitled to see that the ballot box is empty. You are entitled to watch all papers being put into it. If you are there when polls close, you are entitled to watch the ballot box being sealed.

    It is bad enough that the guarantees this offers have been lost through the use of postal ballots. Consider of the votes were cast and counted through some software process. Could a lay observer be absolutely sure that the execution of the software really does count and return the votes as cast? Even if you were shown the software and had the expertise to prove it correct, how would you know that the software shown to you was the same software that was running on the on-line voting machinery?

    I feel it would be preferable for disabled voters to be given the right to vote through a ballot box being taken to their door with the right for observers to accompany it. This should not just be used instead of any suggestion of on-line voting, it should replace postal voting as well.

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