By EDRi

On 2 August 2007, the Electoral Commission, independent body set up by the
UK Parliament, recommended in its evaluation on the pilot schemes used in
May 2007 elections to end electronic voting trials until the establishment
of a strategy by the UK Government to modernise the electoral system and
make it more secure.

The Electoral Commissions considers that there would be not much further to
learn from any more electronic voting trials, as lessons have been gathered
during the trials that took place during the last seven years when the
Ministry of Justice commissioned thirteen local authorities in England to
run pilot schemes. The Commission believes that it is time the government
drafted a clear plan to change the way to run these elections.

“We have learnt a good deal from pilots over the past few years. But we do
not see any merit in continuing with small-scale, piecemeal piloting where
similar innovations are explored each year without sufficient planning and
implementation time, and in the absence of any clear direction, or
likelihood of new insights. ..We welcome the recent government green paper
on constitutional reform; and we believe this needs to be supported by a
clear plan for modernising elections. We continue to believe that the
security of our electoral process needs to be strengthened through a system
of individual registration” said Peter Wardle, Chief Executive of the
Electoral Commission.

The reports issued by the Electoral Commission present an analysis of all
the stages of the electronic voting including voting in advance, electronic
counting and signing for ballot papers at the polling station and raises
concerns related to the low public confidence in the security of these
methods, technical difficulties and accessibility.

The recommendations of the Commission include the creation of a system for
the registration of the individual voters, a more reliable testing and
procurement process for electronic counting, a clear decision from the
Government of whether they want to use electronic voting in advance of the
polling day, the necessity for a strategy for the modernization of the
electoral process and for security improvement. It also recommended that the
value of ballot paper signing should be limited in case of the absence of
individual registration.

The Commission considers that electronic voting should not be continued
unless significant improvements were brought to better testing and that the
system would need at least six months for implementation.

The Electoral Commission’s report confirms experiences of the EDRI-member
Open Rights Group (ORG) election monitoring teams, but does not recognize
the fundamental challenges in using computers for elections.

Despite the Commission’s and ORG report’s conclusions, Michael Wills, the
Election modernisation minister, does not seem to have understood the
message and stated: “These evaluations point to instances where e-counting
and e-voting have worked well, and where electors choose to vote remotely by
internet or telephone they often had favourable responses to these
innovations(…)The purpose of pilots is to learn lessons for the future and
we will do so.”

Electoral Commission calls for end to ‘piecemeal’ election pilots
(2.08.2007)
http://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/media-centre/newsreleasereviews.cfm/news/657

Electoral Commission May 2007 pilot schemes reports (2.08.2007)
http://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/elections/pilotsmay2007.cfm

Halt e-voting, says election body (2.08.2007)
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/6926625.stm

ORG welcomes Electoral Commission recommendation to halt pilots (2.08.2007)
http://www.openrightsgroup.org/2007/08/02/org-welcomes-electoral-commission-recommendation-to-halt-pilots/

Findings of the Open Rights Group Election Observation Mission in Scotland
and England (20.06.2007)
http://media.ito.com/kevinmarks/org_election_report.pdf