No e-voting in 2005?

Following on from the Electoral Commission's report on the all-postal ballot pilots this year there is news that e-voting may be put on the slow burn, thanks in part to the Commission's view that all-postal ballots should no longer be held.

There was some pretty tame debate on the Commission's report in Parliament recently. Thankfully there was also a rather decent debate held yesterday (Thursday 16th) in Westminster Hall discussing the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister: Housing, Planning, Local Government and the Regions Committee report on postal voting.

KableNet have put some rather selective quotes from this Westminster Hall debate together with a quote from the Electoral Commission to suggest that there will be no e-voting trials before May 2006 at the earliest. We shall see if this holds true but the new foundation model for multi-channel voting which the Commission wants to prepare will take time to develop and so such delays sound realistic enough to my ears.

In their Government Computing Weekly email the folks over at KableNet write:

This may be a problem for e-voting enthusiasts and for IT companies wanting to get a market going, but it is also bad news for the democratic process.

It's not that e-voting can improve turnout levels – the evidence on this is inconclusive – but what it does mean is that our election system only falls further behind the times.

If e-voting is ever going to work, and to provide what could be an extremely useful service for people, it needs much more testing. It was just this that the local pilots provided. Gaining public trust and confidence in e-voting will only have suffered a serious setback if the pilots don't go ahead.

Two problems with this view…

  1. It assumes that e-voting one way or another is inevitable. We have seen from the all-postal pilots that just because something new is tried doesn't mean it will inevitably adopted.

  2. The comment also seems to suggest that e-voting isn't happening anywhere else in the world. It is… the US presidential elections in a few months will be just one of many opportunities to learn about how hard it is to get e-voting right.