The Greater London Authority (GLA) is to press ahead with the tendering process for a firm to run its electronic voting system in the 2012 elections, despite ongoing concerns among regulators and civil liberties campaigners over the costs and security of e-counting.
In 2008, the Electoral Commission and Greater London Returning Officer voiced concerns about the e-counting arrangements for that year’s elections for the Mayor of London and the London Assembly, and asked the government to provide an analysis on whether the method made sense economically and democratically.
The GLA conducted the analysis itself and sent copies of the document to the Electoral Commission in June as well as civil liberties organisations such as the Open Rights Group (ORG) to review.
The Electoral Commission has said it will either endorse or reject the analysis by next Wednesday. The ORG, meanwhile, has criticised GLA plans to go ahead with the tendering process for e-counting without approval as undemocratic.
Since 2000, ballot papers for all three London elections and the 2004 European election have been counted electronically. In the 2008 election, discrepancies arose with the e-counting process used to vote the GLA in.
The Electoral Commission, which was set up by Parliament to ensure fair standards are adhered to in the electoral process, produced a report pointing out errors and concerns that need to be resolved if e-counting is to be used again.
“We understand that some scanner operators were recruited at short notice and had little to no experience of the electronic counting system before the day of the count itself,” the report said.
“We have significant concerns about the number and size of discrepancies between the numbers of ballot papers expected and the numbers verified as having being scanned,” it added.
The commission was also unhappy that the e-counting system “did not support the more detailed notes that might provide an audit trail of individual decisions or corrections to ballot paper account figures which is usual in a manual count”.
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