E-Voting

E-Voting

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. …

Transparency

There’s a tragedy happening in Venezuela. I am trying to discover the truth but one part of the story struck me as interesting and odd. Venezuela, it would seems use an e-voting system. This is supplied by Smartmatic, a British based company and their CEO, quoted in the Guardian, has announced that he believes that

 … results recorded by the company’s systems show “without any doubt” that the official turnout figure was tampered with

This is the problem with e-voting systems. How can he know and how can anyone know the truth? …

MXV

So the momentum stitch-up has kicked off big time. I think I’ll constrain this little post to the e-democracy part of the debate. The momentum bureaucracy are proposing that the coming sovereign national conference is framed, decided or influenced by a digital platform and have conveniently launched one. It is called MXV and is based on a product called Consul which seems to have been built for Madrid City Council. When you arrive at the home page, you are offered the opportunity to “sign in” or “Join Momentum”. If you are already a member, and have not been issued with a password, you’re fucked. There is one email address on the site, to use if one has a problem. I have now mailed them twice to ask for login credentials, with proof that I am a member. (The second mail was sent today.) I’d have expected them to use getsatisfaction or user voice for their help desk interface since people can help themselves and see what’s happening; they seem to be learning from the Labour Party and the whole thing is just a black box bit bucket. Actually it’s several steps better because it’s open source, although I have not yet sought to prove that this code line is in use and I don’t do Ruby so I can’t check the vote counting routines. The original product offers oauth support.

What we have here is the construction of the electoral roll in secret. This isn’t good enough. It’s why we have polling agents, judicial review and even international observers in our public elections and why I argued that the Labour Party needs an independent reviewer of its own elections to make sure that the behaviour of the returning officer and his or her agents is transparent. This is all before we measure the value of the conference, the debate and the mandating meetings,

If this is the new e-democracy epitomising new politics, then frankly it’s wanting. …

Significant

I was tidying up my desktop, when I came across a couple of articles by Bruce Schneier on e-voting. In this piece, he argues to tighten up the IT Security around the voting machines in the US, repeating his demand that voting machines have voter authorised paper copies so voters know and agree their ballot papers. He also categorically states that voting over the internet is just asking for trouble. He is concerned about integrity attacks, but ballot organisers should also be worried about impersonation, duplication and coercion, and this is apart from just hacking the results. There are some who feel that the use of e-voting is better than not voting but there remain significant IT Security problems; while I do not necessarily support a return to “show of hands in the car park”, obsessing about internet voting isn’t the answer yet, and may never be.

For more by me, check out my blog articles on e-voting, and for my bookmarks read here…. …

Labour’s Conference Lost

Labour’s Conference Lost

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.  …

More on e-voting

More on e-voting

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[1], I wonder if that was part of the problem since the use of electronic counting & voting systems is controversial around the world. …

CLPD’s 43rd AGM

CLPD’s 43rd AGM

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. …

More reasons to be doubtfull

More reasons to be doubtfull

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. …

pictfor: democracy 2.0

pictfor: democracy 2.0

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.  …

Voting by Mobile Phone

Voting by Mobile Phone

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. …