29 June 2007

E-vote? Ew-vote

Rather belatedly (sorry, ORG) I got round to reading the Open Rights Group report on the e-voting trials in the UK. It's fantastic stuff - well, the report is, at least: its content is pretty frightening.

This paragraph in the Recommendations said it all, really:

ORG’s position is that e-voting and e-counting provide considerable risks to the integrity of our democracy. The risks presented far outweigh any benefits the systems might potentially offer. In practice the systems have proved to be more expensive, less robust, and considerably slower than manual methods, so any potential benefits are not felt. ORG received some comments which suggest that e-voting and e-counting are inevitable and that to oppose these technologies would be a Luddite view. ORG disagrees, and it is telling that a significant proportion of those concerned about voting technologies are computer scientists and professionals, who are usually enthusiastic adopters of new technology.

What's interesting is not just the damning indictment of e-voting that it offers, but the paradox of "enthusiastic adopters of new technology" who are nonetheless "concerned about voting technologies". I count myself as belonging to this schizophrenic group: it seems clear to me that today's e-voting technologies are simply not reliable enough to entrust our democracy to it.

Interestingly, the central problem is openness, or lack of it: if the entire e-voting process could be made totally open and observable, while preserving confidentiality, many of the most worrying problems would go away.

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