No sooner have I finished writing of an example of Michael Wills’ struggle with reality, than another instance comes to my attention. This time, it’s Mr Wills, as Electoral Policy Minister, commenting on the Electoral Commission’s report on the electronic voting trials in May.
The purpose of pilots is to learn lessons for the future and we will do so…. We are pleased that the evaluations point to a high level of system security and user confidence in e-voting systems tested and that the security and integrity of the polls was not compromised.
Err? Let me quote from the commission’s report. Page 4 of the Key Findings and Recommendations Summary Paper:
[T]here was insufficient time available to implement and plan the pilots, and the quality assurance and testing was undertaken too late and lacked sufficient depth. The level of implementation and security risk involved was significant and unacceptable. There remain issues with the security and transparency of the solutions and the capacity of the local authorities to maintain control over the elections.
and again, this time from page 5:
In Swindon, pre-polling day end-to-end testing of the wireless electronic polling station network did not take place at all, which exposed the pilot scheme to an unacceptable level of risk.
Just which parts of ‘security risk involved was significant and unacceptable’ and ‘exposed the pilot scheme to an unacceptable level of risk’ does Mr Wills not understand? Just in case there’s any doubt as to where prime responsibility for these problems lies (seeing as Mr Wills is so fond of piling blame onto Swindon Council), one more quote, from page 5 again.
Although the MoJ undertook its own quality assurance through a security audit, this took place far too late. In some cases, the audit was conducted too close to the count or ‘going live’ date, which meant that, realistically, there was not enough time to make any significant changes following the audit. Clearly, it was incumbent on the suppliers to ensure that their solutions met the requirements of the framework. As noted earlier, however, these requirements were not rigorously enforced by the MoJ and by the time the audit took place it was too late.
Clearly, this government’s approach to learning lessons is to bury its head deep in the sand.