It is to the Electoral Commission's great credit that they have published a letter they wrote to Lord Falconer, the minister in charge of the Department for Constitutional Affairs. The letter details the Commission's response to the applications made by local authorities to run electoral pilots in May 2007. It makes for very interesting reading, here are some highlights:
The Commission feels that many applications lacked detail and that short timescales also prevented the Commission from assessing the applications in detail.
Due to insufficient detail, probably due the procurement timetable preventing authorities knowing which suppliers they could use, the Commission could not support any of the e-counting pilot proposals – yet six were approved by DCA.
Several of the e-voting pilot applications 'demonstrate insufficient understanding of the important security issues relating to electronic voting'.
Three applications, from Rushmoor, Sheffield and Swindon, showed 'effective project management and risk analysis'. These three have done e-voting before, the commission felt that the other four applications did 'not provide enough evidence to give us the confidence that the potentially significant risks involved in the schemes would be managed appropriately.' So the commission couldn't support the applications as proposed. Nevertheless Shrewsbury & Atcham and South Bucks were both approved by DCA to run e-voting pilots in addition to the three the Commission had supported.
It was also of considerable concern to us that a large number of the applications were not able to demonstrate broad cross-party support for the proposed schemes. It will be absolutely essential to clarify the true level of local support before approving any of these applications, to ensure that risks to the successful delivery of the schemes are minimised. In particular, we are concerned that the administrative aspects of the election process should not become an issue of dispute in the election itself.
I know of at least one council that does not have cross-party support for e-voting which nevertheless was approved to run a pilot.