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back to article UK confirms e-voting death

There are no plans to introduce e-voting in the UK, or even to conduct further pilots of the technology, a government minister has confirmed. The government has flirted with the technology in past and claimed it could be a way to increase participation in elections. Michael Wills, a Minister of State at the Ministry of Justice …

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govt. does soemthing right - shocker

Government is about people. Those who tell us what to do and those who decide who should tell. As such, it's right that voting is a tangible process so we can see, from start to finish, how our votes are handled and recorded. While I would like to see elections be more than simply deciding which insincere, self-interested crook gets to do the telling, it's apparent that the lack of transparency in the electronic process is more of a barrier to the democratic process than a help.

Maybe in the future, we'll be able to produce systems that will record our actual wishes on real, specific and individual policies, as well as (or better: instead of) merely indicating who we'd like to send to the trough. However, I can't see that the turkeys would ever vote for christmas, so there's little chance of those in power moving to change the system that got them there.

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Anonymous Coward

Electronic Till Tampering

The IRS found a company that makes software that can change till totals in the new electronic tills, thereby letting a retailer skim the taking in places that take a lot of cash (restaurants etc.).

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/30/technology/30zapper.html?partner=rssnyt

The interesting point of this, is that the electronic tills being computers can have any data in them changed in undetectable ways, even the software used to do the cheating was erased after the change to the data, so you could not detect the cheating software.

Since voting needs to be verifiable and transparent and trusted, and since all computers can have their internal recording of the vote changed, you cannot trust any voting system (online or electronic) that does not have a human readable/verifiable version of the vote.

Is the webpage telling you one story but recording a different one? Are votes being recorded for people who didn't cast a vote? Are votes being erased for people who did cast a vote? Who knows. I can't prove it, and I do this tech for a living.

If tills can be changed so can voting machines. Hence the need for a paper trail, verified by the customer, the till receipt.

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Low voter turnout

Possibly the only way the existing lot can stay in power?

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Coat

Working E-Voting == Working Digital ID

The only way to get a working e-voting system is to have a working digital ID/PKI the way the scandinavians have it. However this is not something UK will see anytime soon. Without a way to prove that Joe Average Cittizen is indeed behind the keyboard and he is submitting the vote any e-voting will remain a very shambolic affair.

The reason for this is extremely simple - outsourcing "core incompetence". Instead of supplying working digital identity solutions themselves all the usual suspects to the UK govt buy third party solutions that are not fit for purpose, namely Verisign and the like. None of these are fit for purpose of handling the identity of the whole UK population. Not even close.

As a result a working ID is not something we will see anytime soon unless the Home Office hands are twisted out of their sockets the way the Germans and Scandinavians twisted the hands of all Eastern Europe via the Shengen agreements. However, while the ex-soviet block initially screamed and grumbled they are all silent now as they are beginning to reap the benefits. Benefit and tax fraud is at a fraction of the UK. So is identity fraud. It takes 24h to get replacement documents (3h if you pay for ultra-fast service). And so on. It has now reached the ridiculous point where you can sign a contract electronically and it is binding and a valid document document in a court of law in Bulgaria or Poland, but I cannot do that in the UK.

Sad. And indicative of what you get when you outsource things that have to be contracted directly with a clear and well defined spec.

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What kind of madness is this?

A sensible government decision about technology. Pass me the smelling salts.

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Some rare good news

"sudden outbreak of common sense"! Thanks to the Open Rights Group along with the other NGOs who lobbied to kill this crazy nonsense off BEFORE the .gov fritters away a few hundred million trying to achieve the impossible. ID cards next...

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Black Helicopters

If you don't vote....

...you don't count.

Move along Citizen!

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Black Helicopters

Cost-based decision?

Maybe they've discovered that it's cheaper to count the votes by hand than it is to commission another government IT project...

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How disappointing...

From the headline,I was hoping for a meaty RoTM story (with juicy comments from Captain Cyborg!) about e-voting machines turning into Terminators.

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@AC 10:32

Working e-voting should just be an enhancement of working postal voting.

They already trust that postal vote forms are not intercepted and returned fraudulently, so instead of posting a form, post a unique ID and unique pin (in separate envelopes on different days).

Without having both of those it won't be possible to vote, and having both verifies (at least as well as the postal verification) that I am me.

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Happy

WTF?

What the fuck? We actually won one? Quick, everybody start lobbying to kill the ID card scheme! I smell blood! :D

A smiley face because we don't get to use them enough.

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Unhappy

Working E-Voting == Working Digital ID

It is becoming clear that we need a dependable (cheap, simple and reliable) ID System, yet all the solutions being proposed are expensive, complex, unreliable(complex in my book = unreliable).

There are so many case where we need our identities to be checked even if we would like check we are not victims of identity fraud. More and more I'm being asked for a Photo ID i.e a passport or Driving License neither of which I have. Why should I spend hundreds of pounds to get one of these when I do not intend to travel abroad or drive a car where a £5 card (which could include a securId style fob) linked to a secure central database that holds the details found on a passport. A text message could be used to further verify the card has not been stolen and sending a MMS text could be used to verify that the persons photo matches that stored locally. The government could then charge each time the system is accessed thereby further reducing the cost.

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Black Helicopters

Re: Working E-Voting == Working Digital ID

@Anonymous Coward, @William: You're both mad! The problem with electronic voting is nothing to do with identifying people. It is to do with counting the votes. In the paper based system, agents of all parties can observe the entire process, and assure themselves that is is fair and well counted. With any electronic system, that cannot be done.

If I could find my tin foil hat, I suspect you both of being Government shills in here to try and sell us ID cards, on really the most spurious grounds yet (that they are needed for electronic voting).

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Coat

??huh??!!!??!!??!

What - Our overlords have got rid of a stupid idea which would cost a bundle and open up the whole system for abuse - without having to burn a city to the ground??

Have I woken up in a parallel universe again? - I hate it when that happens!

*\. checking my pocket diary - No its not the 1st of April. This is odd indeed.

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Sigh.

I'm actually a little disappointed. This is the field I work in, and I'd like to see the government giving some actual thought to it. The problem is that the currently in-use systems (cf. Diebold) are dire. There are so many protocols for e-voting which would do a fantastic job. Oh well! As people have said, I guess it comes down to having a good, secure digital ID. Until that happens we're stuck with the (abysmally insecure, traceable) voting scheme we have now.

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@Steve

Postal Voting is not trusted, though. The Rowntree Trust and Election Commisioner reports mentioned in the article were severely critical of it. The reference to e-voting was simply to point out that it doesn't provide a viable solution.

We've already had convictions in Peterborough for attempted postal vote fraud, with more trials pending. Hopefully the death of e-voting will mark the start of a thorough overhaul of the system.

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@Francis

Actually (although I partially agree with your point), one of the big problems of electronic voting _is_ identifying people. One has to be sure that a voter is who they claim to be (to prevent ballot stuffing, etc), whilst also ensuring that the voter's vote remains anonymous. The only way to guarantee that a person is who they say is to have a reliable identity infrastructure. I'm against national ID, but let's face it, in the current system, you don't have to prove who you are in any way. Rubbish.

Incidentally, actually counting the votes is one of the easier properties to solve...

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Anonymous Coward

Not a "NO", just a "not right now"

Victory may be premature, the wording was "no plans for further e-voting pilots" ... "at this stage", not no plans for e-voting at all!

P.S. what is a "stage", will they simply say "this stage of the e-voting pilot is complete, now for the next stage"?

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Coat

Postal voting !!!

I am of the opinion that this should be reviewed too...as was proven in the birmingham case its far too easy to abuse the system...

If they want to increase voter participation it should be done on a bank holiday and made compulsory.....but the paper should contain a None of the candidates box.

The bank holiday for voting should be a fixed day and when no voting is required we should use it to celebrate our Britishness.....another washed up government half baked idea....

mines the one stuffed with postal votes.....

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Boffin

sizeof( problem )

Whilst there are known to be instances of cheating via postal votes and indeed through people turning up with someone else's polling card, these are not systemic issues. The level of such fraud can be reliable estimated (and strange results flagged up for closer investigation, which is how the postal-vote scams of recent years have been detected, prosecuted, and thus reported.) Electronic voting, however, would mean the end of such post-hoc checks and balances, whilst opening the prospect of a genuine conspiracy to change the results of an entire national election (rather than stuffing a ballot box with a couple of hundred spurious votes, which is the worst that happens with the current system.) Look at the dog's breakfast they have in the US with even mechanical "voting machines" even before the likes of Diebold got involved.

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I don't distrust e-voting per-se...

But I do distrust closed/proprietory systems doing the counting.

With the best will in the world, the best experits in the fields, etc., mistakes will happen. Who'd have thought it possible for a processor to hit the market which couldn't add 2 and 2 accurately? But it sure did back in early pentium days. Same with software, some scrunt types a vote as a float, it gets through testing because nobody is testing the counts, maybe a couple of rounding errors, a litlle bit of failure under load, a smattering of Y2K equivelence, the world's an imperfect place. This is why peer review is ESSENTIAL to have any faith in e-voting.

The problem is the hardware is going to be impossible for the average person to evaluate if it is fair and untampered-with. The BIOS and OS both need peer review, and must be simple enough to perform one task and one task alone (count votes) avoiding risk-inherant scope creep. The software needs to be so so simple it can be peer reviewed too. And almost certainly only ADA is trustworthy enough a compiler for important stuff like this, and it's not particularly easy to review as the skillbase is low.

So I'm happy to e-vote *if* I can review the whole process, which I can't, so I'm not. Hardly rocket science, is it? Why complicate the tried and open and effective solution of counting bits of paper? There's no need to spend a fortune on complicating something so pure and so infrequent and so important!

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we won? Nah, it's a ploy

Now we think we have won, the government will sneek it in.

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I need to apologise

For being disappointed that this story wasn't about someone dying from e-voting.

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Anonymous Coward

no need for e voting

They can fix an election with the postal votes.

@Matt Smart, such a shame your gravy train has come off the rails; there's still ID cards, contact point and the NHS to go at though :-).

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Unhappy

Private Voting

One rarely mentioned problem with all forms of voting not taking place in a private supervised booth, whether postal, e-vote, phone vote, is that there is no protection for the vulnerable being forced to vote in a particular way.

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