Failure of the Scottish e-counting system
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(Article corrected on 10 May 2007)
The electronic counting system used in the Scottish Parliamentary Elections on
3 May 2007 experienced problems as experts had warned and the Scotland
Office announced an urgent investigation on the “serious technical failures”
having delayed the announcement of results in several areas.
Several counts were delayed and about 140 000 votes (approx. 7% of the total
votes cast) were not counted, probably due to confusing ballot design.
Tabulation software problems also emerged in the e-counting system
being used for the first time in Scotland.
The independent Electoral Commission, set up by the Parliament to monitor
elections, had previously advised against running elections using two different voting systems on the same
day. Nevertheless the Scottish Executive and Scottish Parliament
chose to run the Scottish Parliamentary and Local Authority elections
simultaneously on 3 May, potentially leading to further voter
In England some areas piloted early voting in person up to two
weeks in advance, internet voting, touch-phone telephone voting or e-
counting. Scotland only trialled e-counting.
In spite of assurances by government that the systems had been
tested in advance (though no certification process was used),
problems with the automatic counting system occurred caused the
suspension of counting in several Scottish areas for some time. In
England most of the e-counting pilots also experienced delays and e-
voting pilots also encountered technical difficulties.”
DRS Data Services, which supplied the electronic counting machines, stated
to BBC that the delays had been caused by a “small issue” that their
technical staff was doing efforts to solve. “The e-counting system has not
crashed. This is a temporary interruption to one small aspect of the overall
process,” said the company spokeswomen.
However, the system was described as a fiasco by the thirty experts from
North America invited to witness the new electronic voting system.
Robert Richie, executive director of US-based organisation Fair Vote,
considered as “totally unacceptable to have so many votes spoiled” and
stated: “We were also very concerned about the lack of uniform standards in
judging what votes were rejected and which were deemed to be valid”.
The Electoral Commission will perform an extended statutory review into the
election. The Scotland Office spokesman said: “It is important that they
look as a matter of urgency into delays in postal ballots, the high number
of spoiled ballot papers, and the performance of the electronic counting
E-voting policy review after Scottish ballot chaos (4.05.2007)
Inquiry launched into Scottish voting confusion (4.05.2007)
International experts slam ballot fiasco (6.05.2007)
Security fear over internet voting (2.05.2007)
Vote early, vote often (1.05.2007)