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February 02, 2003

Give Me That Old Time Election

This is not a remotely controversial thing in the UK. Here, we go into a little carrel, and mark a cross, in pencil, on a piece of paper. And then we put that piece of paper into a locked box; they check they've got all the boxes and then they count all the ballots, by hand. And if it's close, they count them again. The papers have codes on them so that they can be tracked back to specific voters in the case of suspicion of irregularity; which I used to think was vaguely worrying but now I find quite reassuring.

Of course, that's not the only way to control an election. My favourite line: "Nebraska has a just-passed law that prohibits government-employee election workers from looking at the ballots, even in a recount."

But of course, these days we're looking at enabling e-voting here in the UK. With a secure paper receipt at present.

(via The Sideshow)

Posted by Alison at February 2, 2003 08:57 AM


The problem with e-voting is that the anonymity of the poll-booth is seriously compromised if it's possible for someone else to find out how you voted, either by watching you do it online, by checking your paper receipt, or whatever. It enables vote selling, pressurising voters and many other undesirable things.

Posted by: Mike Scott at February 2, 2003 12:02 PM

We've been piloting electronic voting machines in a number of constituences here in Ireland. The general reaction has been favourable but there have been some warning voices. One commentator I interviewed for an article in the Irish Independent noted that e-voting does away with the 'pageantry' of the count. (We have multi-seat constituences decided by ballots where voters rate their preferences (thesame way the Hugos are decided). This leads to long counts and a certain degree of tension as to who's actually going to get in. The guy I interviewed was worried that without this complicated count, people wouldn't be as interested in elections and therefore wouldn't vote. Think about it. How many people watch the Eurovision Song Contest for the songs as against the voting.

Another point, made by Karlin Lillington in the Irish Times is that anyone can read a ballot with mark so it's easy to scrutinise. However, with e-voting, the ability to scrutinise passes to a technological elite and this is not necessarily a good thing for democracy.

Posted by: David Stewart at February 2, 2003 06:01 PM

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