May 2008 London Election – ORG Reports

The Open Rights Group, with whom I used to volunteer, has published its report on the May 2008 London Election. It is also viewable here in a screenreader.

The upshot is that ORG is still unhappy with electronic voting and counting, and with good reason. Their concerns, stated many times in the past, highlight that fact that because e-voting and e-counting systems are commercial products, there are commercial pressures to prevent audits of the software being used to count the votes. This is a large block to the transparency that is so vital to real democracy.

The independent body set up to organise the elections did a good job, by all accounts. But there were several ways in which the attempts at providing transparency were a sham. In addition, the system allowed for paper ballots to be retrieved in case of an unclear count; this was not done anywhere, even when the possible discrepancy was greater than the majority of the winner.

But still they carry on with this belief that throwing public money at private companies to fix a problem that does not exist will create 100% voter attendance and higher engagement with the democratic process. These companies set up their Potemkin Villages and the naive civil servants are duped by the salespeople into stumping up for these unproven, unsecure, and unreliable systems.

I love new technology, when it does something better than the old method. In the case of voting, paper, pencil and manual counting remain the most cost-effective, reliable, secure and transparent mechanism for recording and counting votes in a democracy.

In other political news, my ex-colleague from the Cooling the Tube Programme (blogged by various people recently), Kulveer Ranger, is now a member of the board of Transport for London. Kulveer was one of the consultants responsible for commissioning the Oyster card across London. ORG have mentioned the Oyster in the past, but only in relation to Deloitte’s use of open source software to save money. The fundamental security issues surrounding the Oyster card are covered extensively elsewhere.

Good luck to Kulveer. I hope he makes a better job of it than some of the other people in Boris’s team. Gawd help us if Ross Kemp is making more sense than the officials. I’m with Charlie Brooker when it comes to Boris Johnson anyway.

I’m keeping tabs on the news in the UK. But I suspect it may get drowned out in the next few months…