At my last Union branch meeting, we heard from Gemma Short of the right to strike campaign. As one part of her presentation she mentioned that one of the Unions’ response to the recent Trade Union laws is to demand that they can run strike ballots (and the mandatory political levy and elections) using e-voting technology. I have been thinking about this for a while and its fans need to take stock; there’s some inconvenient truths.
Tag Archives: e-voting
I was privileged to attend Labour’s Annual Conference in Liverpool as a voting delegate. The Conference was the book-end of a summer in which the Labour Party re-opened the debates about programme and strategy which many had thought finished last year. This article reports my experience and views; it is quite long, about 2750 words and is broken up into sections, Unity and the membership, some comments on the politics of Conference, a short section on the future, also covering the Tuesday atmosphere and Wednesday’s Leader’s speech. This is followed by a commentary on the Rules debate and the surrounding shenanigans; the main part of this article/report is concluded with comments on the state of the debate on Immigration and Brexit.
The announcement of the result for the Mayor of London occurred at 12:30 a.m. on Saturday morning; this was about six hours later than expected, 26½ hours after the polls closed and legally a day late. It was also 6 hours after the first GLA member’s result was declared. I hope we find out what the delay was caused by and we should remember the legal fire-drill in 2012 when Boris and the Tories wobbled and thought they might actually lose which raised questions of accuracy. Uniquely in the UK, the London elections are counted by machine, I wonder if that was part of the problem since the use of electronic counting & voting systems is controversial around the world.
Over the weekend, for the first time ever, I attended the AGM of the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy, their 43rd it would seem. Much of the right wing media locate the intellectual and organisational engine room of Corbyn’s victory in this body. It’s been around for a while, over 43 years it would seem, but I think it underestimates the changes in society occurring over the last 10 years and the changes available to and needed by the Party, and they’re not alone. The meeting was as those of with experience of the movement know, a mix of set piece speeches from in several cases very worthy individuals, the receipt and acceptance of reports, and debate around motions. At the end of the day, I left disappointed.
I had reason to read the Register’s front page this morning and came across these three IT Security and e-voting gems. Firstly the New Zealand Government uses NSA surveillance tools to spy on the a number of APAC governments to help in their campaign to win one of the World Trade Organisation’s elected positions. Secondly the Australian ivote’s practice system has been compromised in such a way that cast votes can be infected. This project was lead by Vannesa Teague and Alex Halderman; Teague has previously spoken of the inherent weakness of [ei]-voting., not a fan it would seem. And thirdly, CISCO’s CTO gives up on security, or at leas that’s what the Register reports as a headline; the comments by Hartman, CISCO’s CTO are more nuanced but he definitely proposes that devices cannot be secure, and need to be monitored against change and current and future threats, and how do you do that in the home.
Last night I went up to Westminster for a Pictfor meeting; this time, Parliament 2.0: How can the internet revolutionise British Democracy. The panel speakers were, Jaan Priisalu, Director General of the Estonian Information System’s Authority, Katie Ghose, CEO, Electoral Reform Society & Ruth Fox, Director, Hansard Society, while the meeting was chaired by Stephen Mosley MP, it was kicked off by the John Bercow MP, the Speaker. The centre piece of Bercow’s speech was an introduction, for me at least, to the Speaker’s Commission on Digital Democracy which is reviewing Representation, Scrutiny and the legislative process. Jaan Priisalu talked about Estonia’s e-voting paltform, while Ghose and Fox spoke about democratic engagement.
Polly Toynbee in the Guardian today bemoans the low turn out and the perceived ‘rotten borough’ nature of Britain’s parliamentary democracy. Among her arguments she suggests voting should be made easier by allowing people to use their mobile phones.
I have commented; because identifying oneself to government, counting elections and guaranteeing the secrecy of the ballot are the last things we should hand over to proprietary, closed software. Digital activists have come to the conclusion that even counting election results by scanned paper ballots is undesirable and where it is done in this country, a sample based manual verification is undertaken. I presented the argument that the regulator’s code must be open to the @labourdigital Top of the Manifestos event.
One of the proposals at the Top of the Manifestos event was loads of e-referenda. (That’s an interesting sentence, the plurals of manifesto and referendum are both unusual.) So apart from the IT security issues, one has to ask, where’s the debate and where’s the evaluation of evidence. Obviously the debate would once have happened in a broadcast world where the cost of a seat at the table was immense and thus the voices of the wealthy are amplified; and this applies to the newspapers as well as the 24 hour news channels such as Sky. The relevance of the print is diminishing, but the TV not so much. Social media platforms are developing new collaboration and voting mechanisms, often specifically to solve issues of governance. But it’s not yet ready. There is little argument that blogging software has empowered many people to express their views which has in some, but not all cases, drawn them into the policy development and analysis.
As promised I popped over Pragmatic Radicalism’s the Top of the Manifestos event run by @LabourDigital. I proposed that “the regulator’s code must be open” and this can be seen at their updated event page. I presented a pitch entitled, “The regulators code must be open” but sixty seconds isn’t long. It didn’t win, or even make the final cut!