Thursday, 15 November 2007

Voting is not the place for blind faith

The title of this post was almost "Elections are not the place for blind faith" but of course they are, the faith that this time your party will overcome the odds to win, or the faith that this time the politicians will be caring, listening people.

What shouldn't be left to faith is the collection and counting of votes and the security around this that ensures that the person voting is entitled to do so, their vote is counted but only once and they can as far as possible avoid being coerced into voting in a manner against their will or for money.

During the electronic voting pilots at the last local elections, I was one of a number of people that formed an independent observation team that then provided our feedback in turn to the Electoral Commission who produced their report in August. The government has just produced it's response to this and the Gould Report on the Scottish election fiasco debacle chaos no sorry, can't come up with a suitable word. The response, in essence says that they appreciate the work everyone has put in but as the government "believes" something different they are going to carry on as they were. This is supported by such flimsy 'self supporting arguments' as "we suggested it was a good idea in another discussion document" in this case The Governance of Britain

The Green Paper supports investigating the modernisation of voting methods, as well as explicitly supporting the continued investigation into the benefits of electronic voting including remote electronic voting.

Never mind the fact that a green paper is the starting point for a consultation, not a set of binding conclusions, "we agree with what we said" is not the most compelling use of logic I have ever seen.

Another article of faith in the response is:

All the pilots supported successful elections. The Government is not aware of any instances of alleged fraud during the elections and does not believe that the pilots increased the risk of electoral fraud.

Again with the belief, the government does not and cannot know but in this case it seems, to believe is good enough. So from now on:

  • I believe that my fellow humans are all sufficiently morally decent to never attempt to infiltrate an electronic voting company and make changes inside the black box software that could influence an election.
  • I believe that large software companies are sufficiently interested in the public good as opposed to the value of the public contract to have every possible safeguard against rogue employees.
  • I believe that there is no-one in the world who would want to pay large amounts of money to anyone who could provide them with an electoral back door

Given my beliefs we are all safe with black box electronic voting.

Further reading on electronic voting security.

1 comment:

Nigel Harper said...

The beauty of the paper way of doing things is that the whole voting process can be explained to a reasonably intelligent 10 year old, and they'd be able to replicate it without needing any fancy equipment or specialist knowledge.

Society has for a long time been tending towards increased specialisation and in many areas that brings huge and obvious benefits, but I think the election of our government is one case where it simply isn't appropriate or desirable.