An independent group has published a report on the problems with the electronic voting system trialled in Swindon in the local council elections in May. Many of the problems identified in the report were already widely known immediately after the election and many of it’s more serious allegations (e.g. that people could have voted twice) were readily refuted by the deputy returning officer. Others were not. Of particular concern are the lack of security
POs [Presiding Officers] were tasked with collecting laptops and other equipment relating to the setup and operation of polling stations. POs are expected to lead the opening and running of their polling station with security a primary concern. It is therefore surprising, given the security concerns that should accompany the use of computers in elections, that POs were allowed to take the laptops for voting home with them one day or more before the election. This provided considerable time for potentially malicious or fraudulent modifications to the laptops, by POs and others to whom they could have given access.
and lack of scrutiny.
In South Bucks and Swindon votes were downloaded and counted on computers controlled by supplier’s staff without any candidate, agent or observer able to examine the process…. In Swindon, CDs were delivered which were said to have the e-votes on them, but nobody had observed the votes being downloaded to the disks or seen what had happened to them until they were inserted into ‘clean’ machines at the count which, attendees were told, decrypted and counted the votes.
Also surprising, from the deputy returning officer’s response to the report, is just how many were expected to vote electronically.
We reduced the number of manual counting staff by about 50 people as we expected 40 per cent of the electorate to vote electronically, but only 24 per cent did.
Given that turn-out is highest amongst the elderly, lowest amongst those in their teens and twenties, to have expected almost half of active voters to change the habit of a lifetime and embrace the new technology was very optimistic.