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E-voting security questioned

Thinktank slams pilot schemes

Internet thinktank FIPR (the Foundation for Information Policy Research) has warned that the systems being used for today's e-voting trials do not offer an adequate level of security and could undermine the public's confidence in the electoral process.

The government plans to introduce e-voting on a national scale in the general election after next, with pilots taking place across 18 authorities in today's local elections.

But the FIPR believes that the government will only gain public confidence in the system if it is safe and secure. It recommends that all e-voting machines should be backed by a paper audit trail, which could be verified by voters and election officials at a later date. It believes that current machines are not "squarely under the control" of government, paving the way for viruses and corruption.

"We don't think voters should need a PhD to understand the security of our voting system. The only safe way to allow electronic voting is through machines controlled by election officials," said Ian Brown, FIPR director. "Anything else is an invitation for fraud to hackers and virus writers around the world."

Figures from yesterday's multi-channel district elections in Swindon showed 6,895 people voted via the internet, 2,972 used their telephones, 163 opted for an e-kiosk and 339 chose digital telephone. But results on overall turnout will not be revealed until tomorrow when votes have been counted.

FIPR thinks the government will be disappointed by the results.

"It's always a bad idea to look for technical fixes to social problems. Election turnout would increase if citizens were convinced their vote would make a difference. Simply computerising the current system is unlikely to achieve this," added Brown.

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