[E-voting] E-voting/e-counting chaos in scotland

cansbro at eircom.net cansbro at eircom.net
Fri May 4 16:18:31 IST 2007


Have a read.  Sounds like they have no idea of the risks that accompany
optical scanning, nor of the need to hand-audit.

"DRS Data & Research Services, which implemented the automated counting
system, admitted it was experiencing problems with the "consolidation" of
the votes.

. . . 

"Deputy Scottish Secretary David Cairns said in April: "People should have
confidence to know that if things do go catastrophically wrong, we will
still have the bits of paper and could do a manual recount if needed."

. . . 

"The machines check the number of ballot papers, count the clearly-marked
votes and separate those which cannot be read.

The returning officer can then adjudicate on the unclear ballot papers via
a computer screen which can be viewed by all interested parties. "

. . . 

"Who is DRS and what is its track record?

DRS has conducted electronic voting for 10 years in countries including
Norway, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Hong Kong and in the London Mayor and
Assembly elections.

The company claims its e-counting technology is 100% accurate but it is
only designed to count clear votes.

Sonya Anderson, head of elections for DRS, said: "The process is taking
longer than anticipated in some of the centres and some returning officers
have decided because of the long wait that the staff and the candidates are
experiencing that they are going to ask staff and candidates to go home
while we resolve the issue."

The electronic counting system was being run at a cost of £4.3m. "

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 

Here at ICTE we've never talked a lot about optical scanning and the
potential/actual problems.  The quote above: "100% accurate but it is only
designed to count clear votes" alludes to just one of the problems--machine
calibration and the many problems that can arise.  And that is just one of
the problems.  

Having paper ballots as a backup is only useful when there is a legal
requirement for statistically significant hand recounts.  If the paper
ballots are not counted by hand, or are not hand-counted using a large
enough sample size to identify errors or fraud (and in some cases this
requires 100% sampling), then the paper ballots' existence is meaningless
or worse.

I say potentially worse, because it gives the illusion of security.

Original Message:
From: Dr J Pelan J.Pelan at gatsby.ucl.ac.uk
Date: Fri, 4 May 2007 13:58:01 +0100 (BST)
To: Dermot.Casey at ge.com, e-voting at lists.stdlib.net
Subject: Re: [E-voting] E-voting/e-counting chaos in scotland

On Fri, 4 May 2007, Casey, Dermot (GE Money) wrote:

> "The polls have been hit by major problems with seven counts suspended 
> and an unprecedented number of spoilt ballots papers recorded.There are 
> fears the national figure for spoilt ballots could exceed 100,000.

Although there have been genuine technical problems which have caused 
delays, the spoiling issue at this stage appears to be entirely related to 
voter confusion - there are local and parliament elections running in 
parallel and they use different types of ballot.

In 2006, the Arbuthnott Commission recommended that the two Scottish 
elections be run on different days precisely because voter confusion would 
occur. It appears their warnings were well founded.

I would recommend waiting for the dust to settle before making any 
comments about the e-counting system per se. It should also be noted that 
the 2004 London elections using similar automated counting machines passed 
without any significant hitches and there were ~6m ballots counted there.

John P.

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