Ridiculous UK E-Voting Trial Ends in Disaster

By Charlie Sorrel Email

August 06, 2007 | 5:48:10 AM Categories: Security 


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Back in May, England ran an e-voting trial at local council elections in Stratford-upon-Avon and Warwick: Shakespeare Country. The continued faith in electronic ballot counting took another hit in a farce worthy of the Bard himself.


To begin, the contracts were not awarded until a scant three months before the election. Because of this, the contractors, Software AG and Dominion Voting had no time for testing. In fact, live tests weren't carried out until the day before the election in Stratford, and election day itself in Warwick. Even then, only 280 and 400 test votes were run through the machines, respectively.


The biggest problem was the scanning of papers. The off the shelf scanners could not be fed folded papers, troublesome with postal ballots. Operators found that they could scan the same paper multiple times and the machine didn't care, it just counted them without flagging duplicates.


The scanners weren't helped by the paper ballots, which turned up from the printers just days before the vote. Most of them were of such poor quality that Dominion Voting’s custom software (running on Windows) just couldn't make them out. After days of this nonsense, the returning officers scrapped the whole thing and did a regular hand count.


The list continues, and you can read the whole comedy in the linked report, including the Ł281,000 ($573,000) that the trial cost, in addition to the normal costs of human counting.


That politicians still think electronic voting is a good idea is baffling. Slower, less secure, more expensive, and harder to use.


Report [Electoral Commission – PDF via The Inquirer]


een. The reason for this remains unclear.

By 0220 on 4 May 2007, no results had been declared. The Returning Officer therefore decided to suspend the count and subsequently sent candidates and agents home. The count was intended to begin again at 1pm later that same day. At 1540, a serious problem occurred: at one adjudication station, candidates’ surnames retrieved from the database did not match those contesting the relevant election. This called into question whether votes were being correctly allocated. It has been suggested by the supplier that this problem may be attributable to incorrect ballot image files having been copied during the reconfiguration process.

Consequently, at 1545 the Returning Officer assembled the candidates and agents to inform them that a decision had been made to abandon the e-count and that all the contests would be counted manually on 8 May 2007.

Oh, the four-day delay before the recount was caused because the hall being used was booked for another event, so the whole lot of them had to clear out. Please take the time to read and be gobsmacked by the report. You simply couldn't make this stuff up. µ

Electoral Commission report

Copy of report posted at