Why I'll boycott e-voting in the May elections

Why I'll boycott e-voting in the May elections

Summary: Munir Kotadia: E-voting will not only compromise our privacy, it will ruin the fun of election night

TOPICS: Tech Industry

An electronic voting experiment will be carried out during the local elections in the next couple of weeks.

In an apparent effort to increase voter turnout, some councils will allow constituents to cast their vote by text message, over the Internet or from special kiosks in shops and supermarkets.

Normally, when an organisation decides to adopt sensible technologies to make life easier for the people, I'm the first to approve. But in this case, I'm worried.

It won't be the first time the government has tested out e-voting, but this year the experiment will be spread over 18 counties, so more than a million people will have the choice of either strolling down to their local polling booth or voting from home, the pub, from a bus, or while at work...

Two things bother me about using electronic voting for elections.

Firstly, security and privacy. The more people that reassure me that the database storing our voting information is completely secure, the less I believe them. I find it difficult to understand how the e-voting system will be able to keep the list containing who has voted separate from the list containing who has been voted for. If these lists were ever combined, our votes would no longer be anonymous.

Mike Lovelady, the returning officer for St Albans City & District Council -- one of the pioneers of e-voting -- assured me that the returning officer is the only one with the power to match these lists together, and he would only be allowed to do so if there was a legal challenge after the election. However, he admitted both lists were kept on the same system.

Nick Pope, technical director of Security Standards, a company that advised the government on e-voting technology, believes the new system is just as secure as the paper system, but recognises that it does raise some issues: "Outside the polling booth, there are not the same visible checks. If a guy walks in and out of the same polling station a number of times, it is obvious."

Lovelady also tried to calm my paranoia about the database system being hacked by someone wanting to alter the election results: "We have been assured that the central database cannot be hacked into. BT Oracle employed their own hackers to try and break into the system, but they failed," he said.

Topic: Tech Industry

Munir Kotadia

About Munir Kotadia

Munir first became involved with online publishing in 1998 when he joined ZDNet UK and later moved into print publishing as Chief Reporter for IT Week, part of ZDNet UK, a weekly trade newspaper targeted at Enterprise IT managers. He later moved back into online publishing as Senior News Reporter for ZDNet UK.

Munir was recognised as Australia's Best Technology Columnist at the 5th Annual Sun Microsystems IT Journalism Awards 2007. In the previous year he was named Best News Journalist at the Consensus IT Writers Awards.

He no longer uses his Commodore 64.

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