If you’re not doing anything else on May 3rd…

by Stephen Tall on March 13, 2007

I’m all for making it easier to vote, and for piloting new and different systems. Sadly, New Labour’s typically authoritarian early experiments have included the abolition of the private ballot – or compulsory postal voting as it was better known.

This too often led to well-documented illegalities – among all parties – as well as countless undocumented abuses where the ‘head of the household’ cast votes on behalf of his entire family.

This Government’s typically cavalier approach to individual rights, with scant regard for the more vulnerable members of our society, has devalued positive proposals for flexible voting arrangements in the public’s eyes.

So it’s no surprise that such measures – including electronic voting – are met with some degree of scepticism, as evidenced by this e-mail I received today, sent on behalf of www.openrightsgroup.org:

Despite the well known problems with e-voting and e-counting the government is pressing ahead with pilots at the May 2007 local elections. To make sure we all get a true picture of how these pilots are run, the Open Rights Group calls for people on the ground in every local authority where pilots will be held to help with our fully accredited election observer programme. We’ll provide full instructions on the activitie expected of you on the day and also supply a factsheet of what to look out for in each of the different pilots. We’ll expect you to be travelling around the pilot area during the day, and to turnaround a quick report for us afterwards.

Please help us reach willing volunteers across the country by highlighting the issue and in particular our signup page on pledgebank at http://www.pledgebank.com/electionwatch07

If you or your colleagues want to learn or do more, please take a look at our e-voting mini-site’s summaries, extensive briefing pack and suggestions for activism at http://www.openrightsgroup.org/e-voting-main/

Electronic voting will be piloted in: Rushmoor, Sheffield, Shrewsbury & Atcham, South Bucks and Swindon. Electronic counting will be piloted in: Bedford, Breckland, Dover, South Bucks, Stratford-on-Avon District Council and Warwick District Council.

Thanks for your support on this crucial issue.

I imagine many readers may already have plans for election day (telling, knocking up, last minute leaflets, etc) – but, if not, there are worse ways of spending some of May 3rd.

It’s a sad reflection that New Labour has so undermined trust in our democracy that democracy itself has been brought into disrepute.

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Um, it’s fair to make a point about this being heavy-handed shilling for the corporations who make e-voting machines, but it’s also pretty clear that these concerns have nothing to do with New Labour’s conduct.

The concerns about e-voting machines arise from a number of sources: 1) The well-reported purging of the voter rolls in Florida in the year 2000. 2) The ease with which Diebold e-voting machines (the most prevalent in America) have been hacked, notably by researchers at Princeton. 3) That the best way to ensure a paper trail is to vote…on paper.

There are also questions about Diebold’s and DBS’s and Smartmatic’s links to the Republican party.

The reason people want oversight of the pilot schemes is not that they think that democracy is so debased that we need to monitor it all the time, but rather that experience has shown that these machines are often faulty, have poor security, and that installing them has nothing to do with ensuring the fairness of a vote.

It is New Labour’s willingness to throw yet more public money into the private sector in the form of needless and often unusable IT projects that is being questioned, not democracy.

by Nathaniel Tapley on March 14, 2007 at 2:17 am. Reply #

‘Fraid I don’t agree that New Labour cocking up postal voting etc is irrelevant to the lack of trust in new voting methods.

Would you really have much more confidence in state-owned and state-run electronic voting machines? I guess that’s why you’re the socialist and I’m the liberal…

by Stephen Tall on March 14, 2007 at 8:09 am. Reply #

Let’s hope that Sheffield manage to get stable broadband connections into their polling stations this year then…

by Paul on March 14, 2007 at 11:44 am. Reply #

Um, yes I would. And I’m not sure that marks me out as any less liberal than you. Less neo-liberal, perhaps, as it suggests that I recognise that there are certain areas of public policy (such as the vote) which is it is right, proper and appropriate are administrated by the government.

In some areas, it is important that there is a safety net, that there are minimum standards, and over which the public should maintain some level of scrutiny and control. Voting is one of those areas.

Given that voting will also be a monopoly (there will be no competition to vote on different machines), administered by the state, it seems ridiculous to suggest that a market solution is anything more than throwing money at a particular company.

To recognise that the vote is fundamental to our democracy; that a market solution is a fanciful idea (as if choosing different voting machines would improve democracy); and that its fairness and freedom should be enforced by the state is not socialism, it is, um, democracy.

by Nathaniel Tapley on March 15, 2007 at 12:40 pm. Reply #

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