The people who cast the votes decide nothing. The people who count the votes decide everything.—Joseph Stalin

Paper ballots are cheap, efficient, and transparent. The only significant complication is in making sure that the ballots are transported securely, and that’s one that has been pretty well solved over the years.

Electronic voting systems, by contrast, add cost and complexity, reduce transparency, and have numerous well-documented security problems. (There’s a long list of documented problems on Wikipedia’s page on the subject)

Nonetheless, some politicians have a bizarre technolust for electronic voting systems. You know, of all the things that really would benefit from a technological update in this country, paper voting wouldn’t be the top of my list of things to throw money at. (I’d probably start with Underground signals that don’t work in the rain.) But then, I have an advantage over politicians: I actually understand technology. And I’m really wary of electronic voting systems.

Perhaps the Electoral Commission’s report on an electronic voting pilot scheme earlier this year will help to put e-voting back in its box in the UK. They found that:

  • It didn’t make counting votes any easier
  • It didn’t make voting any easier
  • It didn’t increase turnout
  • It cost a lot more

How much more did it cost?

The additional technical costs of the electronic counting system have been estimated as £166,179 for the Warwick count and £115,326 for the Stratford count.

It’s worth reading the whole report—the process seems to have been quite a cock-up—but here’s a highlight: the voting system as initially supplied:

  • Allowed the same ballot paper to be scanned and accepted multiple times
  • Didn’t record ballot rejections (as required by law)
  • Couldn’t record objections
  • Didn’t even check that ballot papers were valid

The real kicker, though, is that they ended up giving up and counting most of the votes by hand.

It takes a politician’s blustering ignorance to spin a positive message from that kind of farce. Here’s what the minijust election minister, Michael Wills, had to say:

We are pleased that the evaluations point to a high level of system security and user confidence in e-voting systems tested and that the security and integrity of the polls was not compromised.

His comprehension abilities seem to be somewhat selective.

Fellow electronic voting sceptics should also have a look at what the Open Rights Group has to say on the topic.