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Politics Government Technology

British E-Voting Pilots Announced 166

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the progressive-thinking dept.
rimberg writes "The Department for Constitutional Affairs has announced it is going to trial Electronic voting using the internet and/or telephone. Bridget Prentice, Elections Minister at the department said 'We need to make sure that people can vote in more convenient ways consistent with a modern lifestyle. [...] More and more people, and particularly young people, are using the internet everyday. We need to see if we can use this to encourage people even more to participate in the democratic process.' The Open Rights Group (Think British EFF) have responded by saying 'E-voting threatens the integrity of our elections and we oppose its use in our democracy.'"
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British E-Voting Pilots Announced

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  • by Kelz (611260) on Monday January 29, 2007 @03:47PM (#17804554)
    I do definitely plan to vote against Labor in the next election.

    ... now if only I didn't live in the US!
    • Re:Increased turnout (Score:4, Interesting)

      by VJ42 (860241) on Monday January 29, 2007 @04:03PM (#17804772)
      I live in a Tory\Liberal marginal seat, so a vote for NuLabour[sic] is as much use as a vote for The Monster raving loony party [omrlp.com] Fortunately my political views are no where near those of the Labour party, but the joys of the first past the post system are not lost on me. Instead of this pointless move, why aren't they doing something useful, like introducing the single transferable vote system. That would re-engage more people than this gimmick.
      • by h2g2bob (948006)
        Mod parent up! The single transferable vote [wikipedia.org] system would...
        * maintain the links between the voters of an area and the elected person (unlike the proportional representation elections the EU uses, where you vote for a list of people you've never heard of)
        * reduce the risk of someone being elected who most of the people who voted did not vote for
        * let smaller parties get some seats, creating wider debate in parliament and creating more interest in the general public
        * eliminate tactical voting, where people vo
        • by jez9999 (618189)
          Ugh. I hate it when people mouth off PR for no justifiable reason. I shall defend.

          * maintain the links between the voters of an area and the elected person (unlike the proportional representation elections the EU uses, where you vote for a list of people you've never heard of)

          Most people have 'never heard of' their local candidates either; and what if someone who you didn't vote for gets in? Are they going to represent your views? Of course not, otherwise there'd be no need for voting. This supposed 'l
          • by h2g2bob (948006)
            Ugh. I hate it when people mouth off PR for no justifiable reason. I shall defend.
            I'm not mouthing off PR - I fully agree that PR is better than FPTP. I'm just saying that STV is in my view better still.

            I said that it maintained the links between the voters of an area and the elected person because for many PR schemes the electoral areas are much larger with several people in each area. That is when you don't see anyone, as instead of being in your town they are miles away. I actually do know who my MP is,
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      I'm in the UK. Fancy doing a vote swap? I'll vote against Labour, and you can vote against the Republicans at your next election :-)

      -Stephen
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by VJ42 (860241)
        It's interesting that both you and the OP are talking about who to vote against. Is the political situation both here in the UK, and over in the States so bad that a vote is no longer a positive statement for a political party? I know I'm having a hard time deciding who to vote for.
    • So what happens when someone runs DDS attacks against servers in an election?
    • And I'm sure that with a little web surfing we could come up with enough other black hats to fill all the MP slots.

      Not that we need to, of course - and they'd be the wrong names, anyhow. Think what an opportunity this is for the trillionaire-"businessmen" who deploy the malware and run the phising scams and spam botnets.

      Their own country...
    • I've always wondered why New Labour have passed laws to rewrite the constitution [opsi.gov.uk] at whim [opsi.gov.uk], to arbitrarily punish innocent people [parliament.uk] and perform mass-surveillance [magnacartaplus.org] at a level that Orwell never dreamed of [bristol-no2id.org.uk]... knowing that the people they most fear, the Tory Party, would be guaranteed to win the next election.

  • really? (Score:3, Funny)

    by User 956 (568564) on Monday January 29, 2007 @03:48PM (#17804558) Homepage
    British E-Voting Pilots Announced

    I was wondering when they'd let Otto [bgu.ac.il] do something more than just fly the plane.
  • Open, Receipts (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mfh (56) on Monday January 29, 2007 @03:48PM (#17804566) Homepage Journal
    I hope they open up the code so people can see how it works (or fails to work). A paper or electronic receipt system would be crucial, as stated time and time again.
    • Having a paper-trail only works when the voting takes place in polling stations. Voting by SMS or over the Web cannot be secured - but this government is keener on improved turnout than accurate results, as witness the recent expansion in postal voting and the resulting Council of Europe investigation [timesonline.co.uk].
      • by Znork (31774)
        "but this government is keener on improved turnout"

        Dubious really. Low voter turnout is endemic to winner takes all systems (and who can blame the voters, in a whole lot of cases there isnt even any point for some voters to vote). If they really wanted improved turnout they'd reform towards proportional representation so people would actually get a chance to vote for someone they wanted.

        Then again, maybe the whole point is to make it easier to manipulate elections. It's not like that would be far out of cha
        • by mpe (36238)
          Low voter turnout is endemic to winner takes all systems (and who can blame the voters, in a whole lot of cases there isnt even any point for some voters to vote).

          Another factor, possibly most relevent to the US, is where there is lack of diversity amongst the candidates.
    • by Ironsides (739422)
      A paper or electronic receipt system would be crucial, as stated time and time again.

      A paper or electronic receipt system would open it up to voter intimidation as all of a sudden your vote is no longer anonymous and some guy can say "Show me you voted for X or something bad happens to little Sussie."
  • Internet voting is like nuclear power. There are huge advantages but unless you're really careful there is also the potential for major disasters.

    Eventually, through the use of Internet voting, it will be possible for people to vote on proposed legislation directly. If there's some issue you care deeply about, e.g. a declaration of war, then you can vote directly. If it's not an issue you care deeply about, you can let your elected representative cast a vote on your behalf. Under the current system your ele

    • Eventually, through the use of Internet voting, it will be possible for people to vote on proposed legislation directly. If there's some issue you care deeply about, e.g. a declaration of war, then you can vote directly. If it's not an issue you care deeply about, you can let your elected representative cast a vote on your behalf.

      The founders of the United States intentionally avoided letting people vote directly on legislation in order to avoid mob justice and ensure that the law was formed by those with at least some training in principles of governance. You'd let people vote directly on a war? Remember that the U.S. initiative against Iraq was helped by the confusion in the popular mind that the 9/11 hijackers had significant ties to Iraq. If the public is emotionally stirred up and ignorant enough, all kinds of bad things can happen if you give them the change to go wild. Furthermore, the people would instantly vote away their liberties if they thought it would gain them some security, and they would then turn on that portion of the population which rejected calls for tighter restrictions on whatever matters.

      • Most people are really dumb.

         
      • by Evil Pete (73279)

        Yeah ... let 'em have their online vote for everything. Just so long as I control the newspapers, radio and TV. The people, my pawns. That is what an online voting future would look like I fear. Creepy.

      • by wsherman (154283) *

        blockquote>The founders of the United States intentionally avoided letting people vote directly on legislation...

        The founders also avoided letting people vote directly for president which, in retrospect, has created more problems than it solved. As a practical matter, letting people vote directly on legislation was simply not possible when the USA was founded.

        ...in order to avoid mob justice...

        Theoretically, that's what the supreme court is for. In practice, mob justice gets through anyway. It wasn't

        • The founders also avoided letting people vote directly for president which, in retrospect, has created more problems than it solved.

          How so? You may not agree philosophically with the concept of popular vote not being directly tied to who wins the Presidency, but I'm unaware of any actual problems caused by the electoral vote system that would be eliminated with its removal.

          • by wsherman (154283) *

            ...I'm unaware of any actual problems caused by the electoral vote system that would be eliminated with its removal.

            How about situations where the winner of the popular vote doesn't win the election? While it may be difficult to argue that one politician is better than another in an absolute sense, different presidents do lead the USA in different directions. It would be a very different world if Al Gore had been elected president in 2000.

            The more fundamental problem with the electoral vote system is that

            • The problem with trying to blame the electoral system for current policy is that if the electoral system is removed, then eventually someone will get elected by the popular vote who wouldn't have been elected under the electoral vote, they'll enact unpopular policies, and people will bitch about not having the electoral system anymore. The same thing happens with the line-item veto: whichever party holds the White House wants it, the other major party opposes it, and then when the Presidency switches part
      • actually, James Madison himself said:

        "In England, at this day, if elections were open to all classes of people, the property of landed proprietors would be insecure. An agrarian law would soon take place. If these observations be just, our government ought to secure the permanent interests of the country against innovation. Landholders ought to have a share in the government, to support these invaluable interests and to balance and check the other. They ought to be so constituted as to protect the minority
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by mibus (26291)

        You'd let people vote directly on a war? Remember that the U.S. initiative against Iraq was helped by the confusion in the popular mind that the 9/11 hijackers had significant ties to Iraq. If the public is emotionally stirred up and ignorant enough, all kinds of bad things can happen if you give them the change to go wild. Furthermore, the people would instantly vote away their liberties if they thought it would gain them some security, and they would then turn on that portion of the population which rejec

    • We don't really get a voice anyway in our two-party (of any power) state. No proportional representation, no referenda on issues (despite being promised them, for, say, the Euro), and a political system that's gamed to work in one way whoever gets into power.

      Let's face it.. we've reached a reasonably happy status quo with the current system and nothing too shocking happens under it. The problems we're having now are little different to those of ten or twenty years ago, and the average Brit has just as littl
      • W I don't vote either, because it a) would have no effect, and b) all the parties look the same and are likely to lie and change their policies once they get in anyway (like Labour did).

        Do you do it affirmatively by spoiling your ballot paper, or do you stay home, and get counted among the apathetic or as the Labour spin puts it, those people who are happy with the way things are? IMO voting is a duty, even if you spoil your ballot paper, but people should at least make the effort to go down to the polling station. Imagine the message that would be sent by thousands of spoiled ballots. It would be a lot stronger than the message being sent know, where the parties just write it off as peop

        • Voting should be compulsory, but it should include a definite 'none of the above' option. Alternatively, give everybody a 'for' vote and an 'against' vote (Of which you are not obliged to use either). That should really hammer down parties like the BNP, where instead of just having a lot of people who haven't voted *for* them there will be a lot of people who *have* voted against them.
      • by CmdrGravy (645153)
        I will almost certainly vote but I have a problem in that my current Labour MP actually seems like a decent person and votes against the government on numerous occasions, is opposed to ID cards, was opposed to the Iraq war etc.

        However I absolutely don't want Labour to get in again so I will have to choose the Conservative guy who unfortunately seems like a bit of a muppet.

        With regard to the topic I can't see any benefit in e-voting, my polling station is a 5 minute down the road and I think the majority of
      • We contributed with our taxes to the financing and facilitation of the killing of between 30000 and 600000 human beings (depending who you believe), based in completely bogus evidence by a few illuminati and their PR gurus.

        To think that Mr Blair and Brown go to bussiness meetings, schools and general parochial political tumbfolery and that people receive them like the celebrities they are, is frankly shocking.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Ironically that's also the only candidate worth voting for.
  • Has anyone ever... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by popo (107611) on Monday January 29, 2007 @03:52PM (#17804612) Homepage

    Has anyone ever come up with one really good reason why a paper record of all votes is a bad idea?
  • by saskboy (600063) on Monday January 29, 2007 @03:54PM (#17804638) Homepage Journal
    e-voting is unsuitable for anything more serious than who people think will supplant Britney Spears as the next queen of teen pop.

    Diebold voting is a fraud, and it happens right in front of the user, on a dedicated machine. The voter can't even see their marked ballot go into a container for verification in the event of computer fraud! It's a sham.
    • e-voting is unsuitable for anything more serious than who people think will supplant Britney Spears as the next queen of teen pop.

      Sounds like it would be a good match for the British Parliment then, which recently spent quite a bit of time debating racism on the BBC's version of Big Brother.
      • by VJ42 (860241)
        If by "quite a bit of time" you mean one question, (IIRC by Keith Vas) and around 30 seconds, at Prime Ministers Question time, then yes they did. There was also an early day motion, but that's outside parliamentary time, and just consists of MPs signing their names, no debate involved. Oh, and Big Brother is on Channel 4, not the BBC.
  • Sounds Great (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Radon360 (951529) on Monday January 29, 2007 @03:54PM (#17804642)

    Now when someone tries to cast a vote from home on their spyware-riddled PC, later to find out it wasn't counted or cast incorrectly, then what? Or worse a whole bunch of voters are disenfranchised and don't even know it because of their clunky equipment.


    Sorry fellas, you have to leave the internet out of this idea for now. Get the bugs worked out of the stand-alone electronic voting machines first.

    • by Deadplant (212273)
      That could not happen.
      I'll cite a 2003 electoral commission report on their first internet voting trial:
      "No evidence of fraud was found."
      When fraud leaves no evidence you can't find out that your vote was mis-cast and you can't become dienfranchised.
      Problem solved.
    • hello and my name is Prince Intembe Kumbobo and I am UK national reside Nigeria and having ran from polotical persucation from new administraton. My associates and me are set up a new party in nigeria To Disloge present administraton. we were and then are in large possession of sums of money and wish to use it to make Differences in uk. I friend, am sure that, you agrees with our plite and fear the Mr Bush and he's chronies.Please to forward to me your voter ID and PWD as well as our banking accounts num
  • by MonGuSE (798397) on Monday January 29, 2007 @03:55PM (#17804652)
    All I have to say is my 2 million zombie controlled pc's will be voting for myself in the next election.
  • mail? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Vote By Mail has been a huge success here in Oregon.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Postal_voting/ [wikipedia.org]
  • I can't wait until Perl Script wins a seat in Parliament, or perhaps even position as Prime Minister!
  • by antifoidulus (807088) on Monday January 29, 2007 @04:02PM (#17804760) Homepage Journal
    "The hounourable Prime Minister Goatse man of the GNAUK Party wishes to have the floor"
  • by cliffski (65094) on Monday January 29, 2007 @04:02PM (#17804762) Homepage
    "We need to make sure that people can vote in more convenient ways consistent with a modern lifestyle."

    We are trying to make voting as convenient as buying a bag of crisps. why?

    If someone can't be bothered to walk or drive half a mile to a polling station and put a cross in a box, do they really *care* who they are voting for? Far too many people treat voting flippantly (I don't like the look of him, I never vote for a woman, He has horrible hair etc) as it is. Would we be any worse of if voters had to take a simple test before voting? If you can't name the leaders of the main 3 parties, and pick their faces out of a lineup, are you really informed enough about the issues to vote sensibly?

    Politicians in the UK panic about low turnout and think its because voting is hard. Its not, its just that a
    First-Past-The Post [wikipedia.org] system means that most of us have wasted votes, even if the main 2 parties were different, which they aren't.
    Proportional representation [wikipedia.org] FTW.

    Just a thought.
    • by joe 155 (937621)
      I generally agree... although the "picking the faces out of a line up" might not be a great way of giving disabled people (in this case the blind) greater citizenship rights (they already suffer enough hastle from the built environment). I'm not sure that First Past The Post is the problem here thoguh - most people don't care what they system is, those who do will probably never be happy ("YES! we got PR... but they are using the droop quota" *shakes fist* type thing).

      Maybe any test would be hard to adm
    • What if you were able to take your time with voting instead of being rushed through a line/queue with 20 people waiting for you to finish when you finally get to the polling station? Maybe an online version could be done at home, at your leisure and in your own time and it could even provide enough reading material to inform a person who had not previously taken the time to research each candidate or issue.

      • by VJ42 (860241) on Monday January 29, 2007 @05:45PM (#17806082)

        What if you were able to take your time with voting instead of being rushed through a line/queue with 20 people waiting for you to finish when you finally get to the polling station?
        Whereabouts do you live*, and how long do the people near you take to put a cross in a box? I have never ever had to wait more than 10 seconds to vote, and have weeks running up to election day to make up my mind (admittedly last general election I changed my mind at the last minute and spoiled my ballot paper). Usually there is absolutely no one else at the polling station except the clerk and returning officer.

        *If you're not in the UK, we have quite small constituencies and lots of polling stations in each, combined with a low voter turnout. That means no waiting and quick results.
        • If I'm not mistaken, you can get a fresh ballot paper and try again... but you have to ask for one and hand over the spoilt one to be cancelled... if you put it in the ballot box, then tough...
          • by cs02rm0 (654673)
            He may have meant he decided to spoil his ballot paper on purpose - as a sign of protest at the choice available.
          • by VJ42 (860241)
            As others have indicated, I spoiled my ballot on purpose, as I was dissatisfied with the choices on offer. I view that as a positive way to abstain, rather than be counted among the apathetic, or, as government spin puts it, those who are happy with the current government. As there is no "none of the above" or "re-open nominations" box on UK ballot papers it's the closest thing I have to a protest vote without voting for people I fundamentally disagree with, like UKIP or Labour (I live in a Tory\Lib-Dem mar
        • I live in Southern California. When I go to the polls (usually on a weekday before work, at lunch or after work - election day is not a national holiday in the US) there are at least 40 people waiting with up to 10 clerks doing documentation and providing help for disabled or elderly voters and 6 - 8 polling booths. I can't even imagine how irritating it must be in Los Angeles or New York where there are > 3 times as many people as where I live ( about 3.1 million in Orange County / 10 million in LA Coun
          • by VJ42 (860241)
            The difference between you in the states, and us in the UK, seems to be one of scale then, we have lots of small polling booths (usually at a local school or church hall), and everyone usually has one within walking distance. Election day here in the UK is also not a public holiday (although many schools shut as their halls are being used), bizarrely it's always a Thursday, so I also pop into my local polling station on my way to work; as I take the bus,it adds all of an extra 10 minutes to my journey as I
            • Our elections are on Tuesdays... ??? anyways, we do have local polling stations. There are thousands of them in just this county but since everything is more spread out here they aren't within walking distance (unless you plan on walking 30 minutes to and 30 minutes back) for 90% of the people assigned to a specific one. Regardless it seems that there must be more voters at least in my district and all the districts I have lived in previously, or else we are just really slow about marking our ballots. Would
              • by VJ42 (860241)

                since everything is more spread out here they aren't within walking distance

                Would be interesting to compare the ratio of polling places here and there.

                My guess would be that you've hit the nail on the head with these two points if the polling stations are further away from you, and you have less of them, you're going to get queues. Add that to the fact that US ballot papers have a million questions on them, whereas here we usually just mark one box* with a cross beside the candidate we are voting for it sheds some light on the root of the problem, but I agree, a comparison of the ratio of polling booths per head would be an interesting read.

                *or if Gen

                • I don't know about the rest of the states but in California we do have the General and Presidential elections at the same time, which means we vote on district, city and state as well as national... SO there is always at least 2 Congressional seats up for election, often Governor as well, State legislative positions, Judgeships every few years, City officials, State officials (such as Attorney General, etc.) School Boards and then there are the Propositions (laws and taxes we get to vote on) which last year
      • by Builder (103701)
        Don't let them rush you!

        I used to vote in South Africa. I regularly queued for upwards of 3 hours, and I did that with a smile - people died on South African soil to get that vote, and I feel a duty to exercise that right!

        Now in the UK, I never queue for more than 5 minutes. It's a trivial process that takes less than 30 minutes door to door (home -> walk to polling station -> vote -> walk home)
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      Would we be any worse of if voters had to take a simple test before voting?

      We had this in the United States, but it ended up that black people always failed the tests, so we made it illegal because it was racist.

    • I already get out and vote; a more convenient way to vote wouldn't be objectionable to me. I think we can do it.

      In fact, I have a problem with this: 'E-voting threatens the integrity of our elections and we oppose its use in our democracy.'

      E-voting threatens nothing in and of itself. The lack of voting threatens democracies just as much, I think. The problem is that e-voting has been a complete fiasco up until now because it lacks transparency to the people it's meant to serve. Voters should be able to kno
      • by megaditto (982598)
        Well, isn't the telescreen-based E-voting what they had in 1984 to re-elect the Big Brother? (or was it the telescreen surveilance, I forget)

        Am I the only one seeing the similarity with that and the proposed:

        "The Department for Constitutional Affairs has announced it is going to trial Electronic voting using the internet and/or telephone.
      • by pjt33 (739471)

        There should be independent agencies devoted to inspecting the machines and certifying them.
        Judging by the minimalist description which the DCA gives for the system it will be piloting in Rushmoor, Sheffield, Shrewsbury & Atcham, South Bucks and Swindon, the machines involved will be people's home PCs. Fancy certifying them?
    • If someone can't be bothered to walk or drive half a mile to a polling station and put a cross in a box, do they really *care* who they are voting for? Far too many people treat voting flippantly (I don't like the look of him, I never vote for a woman, He has horrible hair etc) as it is. Would we be any worse of if voters had to take a simple test before voting? If you can't name the leaders of the main 3 parties, and pick their faces out of a lineup, are you really informed enough about the issues to vote

  • If you vote from home there is a risk that you might be voting at gunpoint. How do they take care of that?
    • by MightyYar (622222)
      Only rich people with proper home security systems in nice neighborhoods will be allowed to vote.
    • by Nasarius (593729)
      I assume you're also against absentee ballots, then?
      • by MightyYar (622222)
        Absentee ballots are not anonymous and are not counted on election day. If an entire block votes via absentee ballot, it is probably worth investigating. Also, if you are coerced, there is plenty of time to act before they unseal your ballot. Since they count them after the polling has ended, fraud is mitigated somewhat by them checking to make sure that you haven't already voted in person before they count the absentee ballot. I don't have a problem with submitting the request for an absentee ballot electr
  • ...... Involve Diebold [wikipedia.org] then I'm all for it.
  • That the poor turnout is because voting is too hard...

    Nothing to do with the fact that the government received only 34% of the votes but obtained 60% of the seats in parliament. No it wouldn't have anything to do with the fact that the electoral system throws away two thirds of all votes.

     
    • No it wouldn't have anything to do with the fact that the electoral system throws away two thirds of all votes.

      Or perhaps the fact that many of the candidates have convictions for fraud, corruption, or dishonesty?

    • by el_womble (779715)
      I can massively improve turnout at elections:

      1: Provide each voter with a certificate
      2: On voting day that certificate entitles you to a tax rebate on beer/wine/spirits bought in pubs on that day.

      This is a good idea because:

      1: Pubs are the centre of politcal debate in the UK
      2: We Brits will sell out own mother for free / cheap drink.

      I'm only half joking.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    The falling turnout at elections has nothing to do with the technology of how we vote. The problem is the type of people who are foisted on us as our politicians. We have come to expect that politicians never answer a question directly, give misleading answers, resort to ad hominems, and generally give the impression of being thoroughly dishonest and untrustworthy, with the "bonus" of superficial, irritating charm. In the UK there are several shining examples in the upper echelons of political power. They a
  • ...and as a founder member (well, OK, one of the first thousand :) could I point out to UK readers that this would be a great time to join us [openrightsgroup.org]. Very cheap! Recursive acronym! Promotional T-shirts coming soon! ;)
  • A paper trail won't be necessary with the British NannyCams recording everyone casting their votes.
  • Several of these municipal councils have tried Internet voting before.
    Here is the Electoral Commission report for the Rushmoor district from 2003.
    Relevant info starts at page 5
    http://www.rushmoor.gov.uk/media/adobepdf/internet -voting-report.pdf [rushmoor.gov.uk]

    Interesting points from the report:
    • the system was built by ES&S, a US company subject to the patriot act. ES&S staff had user accounts on the system which were temporarily disabled on election day. (at least they were asked to do so...)
    • Ballots can be traced
  • We need to make sure that people can vote in more convenient ways consistent with a modern lifestyle. [...] We need to see if we can use this to encourage people even more to participate in the democratic process.

    That's begging the question. Why do they 'need' to make sure people can vote in more convenient ways? Isn't that likely to lead to less informed and less able voters overall?

    For that matter, why do they 'need' to encourage folks to vote? Voting is a privilege, and if one chooses not to exerc

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