back to article Londoners' votes put at risk by Boris' bigwig

Boris Johnson's top official is headed for a clash with the elections watchdog over his personal decision to use electronic counting machines at the next London election - despite serious concerns over fraud and costs estimated by his own staff at £1.5m more than a manual count. Leo Boland, chief executive of the Greater …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Indra is paper isn't it?

    I thought that Indra's system was a paper scanner system, i.e. the paper vote is scanned, and random samples are hand counted to check for problems/fraud.

    The cost may be an issue, but if it's auditable and audited (you need to do the checks on a random sample big enough to confirm the vote!), then it doesn't follow that the system is insecure.

  2. Tom 15


    Am I the only one who doesn't quite understand how a ballot can end up spoiled in an e-election? I mean surely the only way to spoil a ballot is to vote for the wrong number of candidates and the machines shouldn't allow you to submit ballots spoiled in that manner?

  3. Dr Richard

    Ohhh shiny technology ...

    Never mind the cost feel the chips.

    eVoting is yet another example of chucking technology at a problem when there really isn't one.

    People make the best optical recognition systems and when multiple people are used you get the advantage of making it harder to commit fraud and more accurate results.

    If people think their evotes won't be counted properly then they will be even less likely to vote than they currently do. Making voting quicker by a minute or two and counting faster by a few hours or so does not mean that we will be voting more than we do ... just look at the quality of the candidates, their policies and how willing they are to fill in their expense claims and pass pointless laws .. improve those and people will be very willing to go out and vote manually even if it takes days to count and even if it costs more (which clearly it does not).

  4. Conrad Longmore


    I had the misfortune to see Indra in action in the election in Bedford in 2007.. it took forever due to numerous problems. Now, some of those problems were due to inexperience - for example, the quality of the ballot papers themselves was poor and this kept jamming the scanners.

    One significant problem that I could see was that the Spanish OCR system kept thinking that a "1" (with a serif at the bottom) was actually a "2" and it was mis-counting the votes.

    And one other significant problem is the lack of scrutiny - the ballot papers basically vanished into the machine and were never seen again.. the usual checks that you can do at a manual count didn't happen. Bedford did not repeat electrionic voting after 2007!

  5. Anonymous Coward

    @ Tom 15

    Tom 15 The technology in question here is e-Counting (not e-voting). So as the AC above you says the votes are cast in the normal way, scanned into the system and then a form of OCR is used to determine who the vote was cast for.

    The issue that can arise is when dirt or a smudge falls into the voting box and so is determined to be a vote, if this happens to be in a different box than the voter intended to cast their vote for it will be a spoiled paper.

    If I remember correctly the process for London was to then have these reviewed by a Deputy Returning Officer prior to discarding them or registering them correctly.

    (AC as involved in the London Elections of 2007)

  6. Roger Stenning

    Not at all happy with e-voting

    In ourely e-voting systems, there is no PHYSICAL evidence after the event with which to recheck votes, leaving ANY system open to manipulation and fraud. Even paper-scan-based systems are open to fraud and error, so why fix something when it's NOT - say again not - broken??

  7. Elmer Phud Silver badge

    Mores shiny toys for Boris

    Boland - "Mr Mayor, we've got some nice shiny eeelectronic voting boxes for the next election"

    Boris -"Uh blurgh, don't ask me, I'm just the 'man on the street' (tm)

    Boland -"They are a pretty colour and have flashing lights and all that"

    Boris - "Sounds rather jolly to me, can we have '2012 Olympics' and 'Mayor of London' stickers on them?"

    Boland -" Of course, Your Fluffiness"

    Boris "Righty ho, spiffing idea"

    Why oh why does Boris seem more and more like Mel Brooks' Governor William J. Lepetomane

  8. Nebulo
    Thumb Up

    Still ...

    It at least proves that "New" "Labour" don't have a monopoly on knowing better than the experts.

  9. Richard Porter

    Why only go half way?

    What's the point of using electronic systems to count pencil crosses on bits of paper, or even 1-2-3? We need fully automated voting but with hard copy registration of votes at each polling station in case of fraud or breakdown. We should also have individual registration of voters rather than one person per household completing the return. If that's done we can have e-voting via the internet. If on-line banking can be made secure enough then so can on-line voting. Neither will be 100% (and people still use Windows) but neither is manual voting and counting proof against error and fraud.

  10. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge
    Big Brother


    Call me cynical but I'm sure some politicians, parties and others favour e-voting precisely because of the scope it gives to rig the vote.

    Such rigging doesn't need to be large nor on a huge scale and is consequently very hard to identify and detect, even if it otherwise worked perfectly. It's very easy to tip a marginal to one side and do that dynamically as the vote progresses, even giving the opponents some votes back if it starts to look too suspicious. A marginal swinging one way or another; who'd suspect that ? Swing enough marginals and you get the result you want, tilt the others and the trend makes the marginals' results less suspicious.

    Need some smoke and mirrors ? Rig a ward to go to the other party in such a way it is obviously rigged and leave them to take the blame and flak.

    Wilder schemes, more open to fraud - email, SMS, 'red button' voting, are acceptable to politicians because fraud is preferable to being shown they have no popular support nor legitimate mandate. Got to keep the gravy train rolling on. Better to be on it with the opposition in power than have everyone being shown as unwanted, so-called democracy clearly failed.

    As belief in our politicians and parliament declines you can expect there to be greater desire to move to e-Voting. All in the name of efficiency or cost but really so the people with power keep themselves in power. The System is more important than individual politicians and far more so than the people. Everything will be done to protect the System.

  11. Cliff

    Voting machines elect their own...

    One brilliant bit of satire from The Onion News Network

  12. Al Jones

    @Richard Porter

    "If on-line banking can be made secure enough then so can on-line voting."

    What, you can't be arsed to take 20 minutes once every 4 years to actually cast your vote? And you wonder why politicians never seem to pay any attention to the electorate.

    There's a big difference between banking and voting, and that difference is secrecy. You bank details are supposed to be secret to everyone except you and the bank. You can see when transactions are recorded, and challenge them if you see an error.

    Voting is a secret between you and you alone. The counters can see the aggregate result, but can't tell how you voted, and there is no way to prove after the fact that you voted one way or another, so there's no way that you can challenge the fact that the e-voting machine counted your vote for party A as a vote for party B.

    And while getting a call from your credit card company to ask you if you were really responsible for those charges made in Lagos last week, getting a call from the Returning Officer saying that "We noticed that you voted for Party Y last week, even though you've been voting for Party X all your life. Was there a mistake?" would probably not make you feel very happy at all.

  13. Anonymous Coward

    E-voting is only good for ...

    elected officials willing to commit fraud to stay in power (or those with enough money to buy the vote from or out from underneath of the previously elected).

  14. C. P. Cosgrove

    DRS and Scottish election

    " DRS supplied the machines that were at the centre of the disastrous 2007 Scottish election "

    I have no feeling one way or the other for DRS, but to be fair to DRS, it wasn't primarily the machines that were at fault, but a truly awfully designed ballot paper.

    I voted in that election, and I am reasonably sure in retrospect that one of my two ballot papers was incorrectly completed - and I like to think it wasn't due to lack of intelligence or, at the age of 62 at the time, of inexperience of voting.

    You would have to have seen the ballot papers to have believed them !

    Chris Cosgrove

  15. hammo

    look at ireland

    Ireland has just decided to ditch all e-voting, after buying the machines at a cost of 20-30 million, and then storing them at a further cost of 10-20 million for 10 years.

    Could someone please learn something from that disaster!!

  16. DRS

    DRS e-Counting technology successfully delivered 32 secure counts in Scotland

    Chris Williams’ report (The Register, 25th September 2009) incorrectly links the DRS e-Counting system with the high level of rejected ballot papers at the 2007 Scottish elections. An independent external review of the elections, led by elections expert Ron Gould CM, concluded that the system was not responsible for the level of spoilt ballots and that the rejected ballots were due to voter confusion. Simply put, the rejected ballots were rejected because the ballot papers had not been completed correctly. The e-Counting system is designed to take an image of any ballot paper where there is any doubt over the voter’s intent and to send this to an official for adjudication – and it successfully did exactly that. The review report also recommends that electronic counting be used for future combined parliamentary and local government elections – or local government elections alone when the STV system is used.

    DRS e-Counting technology successfully delivered 32 secure counts in Scotland – producing results for just under 500 individual contests in under 24 hours, as opposed to the several days estimated to count the same election manually.

    DRS is dedicated to the delivery of secure, robust technologies for the counting of complex large-scale elections and has earned a worldwide reputation over the last decade for delivering accurate and secure e-Counting solutions.

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