E-voting flawed in London election, say campaigners

The Open Rights Group has again said the result of the 2008 London mayoral election may have been skewed by flaws in the e-voting system

Digital rights campaigners have repeated assertions that the May 2008 London mayoral election results were potentially flawed due to e-voting problems.

The mayoral elections were won by Conservative candidate Boris Johnson. However, Open Rights Group (ORG) campaigners asserted that as many as 41,000 votes could have been miscounted, and that the final result could, therefore, have been skewed.

At a Greater London Authority meeting on Thursday, called to examine issues around e-voting during the London mayoral elections, ORG representatives said that e-voting had potentially led to a miscount of votes.

"The software was weak in design and testing," said ORG campaigner Jason Kitcat. "The counts were hard to measure. We never saw if votes were valid, only if they were invalid."

Kitcat said that officials had admitted that the e-voting system was likely to have recorded blank ballots as valid votes. He also criticised the KPMG audit of the process, saying that the audit log was "not retrievable".

"Openness and accountability were weak," said Kitcat. "Audits by KMPG were incomplete and not released to the public."

Former systems engineer and Conservative London-wide Assembly member Andrew Boff, who was a member of the panel hearing evidence on the election, expressed concern that the e-voting system had not been robust.

"There were some quite worrying errors at the lower levels of the [e-voting] program, suggesting the program was not terribly well written," said Boff. "Some of the errors don't give much confidence in the results."

Boff said that, if votes had been marked as valid and then lost on the system, there would be no way to check that. Boff also criticised the use of a proprietary counting engine in the system, which means it may not be possible to examine the source code.

However, representatives for Indra, the company contracted by London Elects to deliver the e-count system, said that there was no reason to doubt the validity of the election result.

"There might have been glitches, but that didn't interrupt the count," said Christina Frutos, business-development manager for Indra. "There were occasional errors that were limited, but these were not worrying. There was no decline in the accuracy of the count."

Anthony Mayer, the Greater London returning officer, said that he was satisfied that blank ballot papers had not been included in the count.

"There is no evidence that an electronic blank turned out to be a vote," said Mayer.

ORG first expressed its concerns about the e-vote count in a paper published on 2 July, entitled May 2008 Election Report.