[E-voting] E-voting machines to be used in UK

Dr J Pelan J.Pelan at gatsby.ucl.ac.uk
Wed Oct 25 12:40:32 IST 2006

On Mon, 23 Oct 2006, Louise Ferguson wrote:

> I've spent a few years 'banging on' about this myself. 

I wasn't trying to establish bragging rights but simply to stress to the 
list membership (largely based in Ireland naturally) that the political 
and civil libertarian atmosphere in the UK has not been particularly 
receptive to e-voting issues. That could well change with the possibility 
of an impending roll-out, although that has been threatened before too. 
Your own record is notable, but then you do have professional concerns in 
the area of access and usability. Our concern is VVAT of course.

> Indeed they are. The point of ORG was that it was set up as an umbrella 
> that would work to fill the gaps in this fragmented panorama, and 
> provide a single point of 24/7 media contact, always working with 
> existing groups.

If a 'hack' phones up ORG and asks for an opinion on e-voting what are 
they going to be told ? Who are they going to be directed to ? There are 
no position statements on your WWW site and it isn't clear if you have any 
opinions of your own in any subject (certainly not without drilling down) 
and even if you did - are these the opinions of one/some/all of your 
members?  Much like traditional Labour supporters are now, I wouldn't want 
to cough up a membership fee and then be surprised by a volte face on a 
core issue, like VVAT in this case.

> And, perversely, you do need some technical knowledge in order to fight 
> this one: only someone who understands how the internet works (as well 
> as something about human behaviour) will be able to demonstrate why 
> remote internet voting - last week once again proposed in the UK - is 
> such a bad idea.

An analogy with postal voting, which is already disastrous in the UK, 
suffices as the risks of personation, vote-selling, intimidation and 
secrecy are just the same. That's why ballot stations were invented - to 
provide safe, secure environments in which to vote. No amount of remote 
microelectronics is ever going to replicate that.

> We see absurd faith placed in tech-led *solutions* by non-technology 
> minded politicians and civil servants, 

We do, but much of this is driven by the vested interests selling these 
'solutions'. Then there are the vested interests selling fixes to the 
above. Then there's the vested interests trying to make a name or career 
for themselves, like civil servants and journalists. It's just like 
anywhere where there's public money and/or publicity to be had.

It's a tough battle but I believe the strength of the ICTE has been, aside 
from the dedication of a few highly commendable people (not forgetting Joe 
McCarthy), that it is single-issue, non-partisan politically and devoid of 
egos, money and vested interests - other than a desire for transparent, 
accountable elections. It has also succeeded, thus far, because it got 
mainstream politicians to take notice.

>From my personal perspective, as a starting position in the UK it would 
help if all the relevant groups, including ORG, nailed their flag to the 
mast so everyone can see where they stand.

John P.

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