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March 14, 2007 | Suw Charman Anderson

links for 2007-03-14

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March 09, 2007 | Suw Charman Anderson

links for 2007-03-09

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March 07, 2007 | Becky Hogge

Election Watch 2007 - Devote your day to democracy!

map showing where ORG volunteers have agreed to observe electionsDoing anything exciting on election day? ORG is looking for volunteers to "devote their day to democracy" and become ORG's Electoral Commission accredited election observers for the e-voting pilots on Thursday 3 May.

We'll provide you with full instructions on the kind of things that will be expected of you on the day. We'll also supply a factsheet of what to look out for in each of the different pilots. We'll expect you to be travelling around the pilot area during the day, and to turnaround a quick report for us afterwards.

If you live in or around the eleven pilot areas (or are willing to travel there) and you'd like to help out, please let us know. Sign up to our pledge on Pledgebank - we're using a beta feature that lets you input which of the pilot areas you're volunteering for. The image on the right shows where volunteers have already signed up.

Please take a look down the list of pilot areas to see if there's one near you, or one you'd be willing to travel to. The information in brackets will help you sign up to the right area using the Pledgebank system.

The five e-voting pilot areas are:

  • Rushmoor (use "Aldershot" in Pledgebank)
  • Sheffield
  • Shrewsbury & Atcham (use "Shrewsbury" in Pledgebank)
  • South Bucks (use "Denham" - the one near Uxbridge, Harefield, Fulmer)
  • Swindon (the one near Wroughton, Draycot Foliat, Chisledon)

The six e-counting pilot areas are:

  • Bedford
  • Breckland (use "East Dereham")
  • Dover
  • South Bucks (use "Denham" - the one near Uxbridge, Harefield, Fulmer)
  • Stratford-upon-Avon
  • Warwick (the one near Leek Wootton, Old Milverton, Leamington)

To read more about e-voting in the UK and across the world, download our briefing pack. If you do volunteer, you'll be playing a vital role. We need bodies on the ground to inform us about irregularities, machine (and human!) error and even fraudulent activities relating to the trialling of electronic voting mechanisms.

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March 06, 2007 | Becky Hogge

System Failure: Private Eye report into NHS IT

The current issue of Private Eye has an eight-page special report into the NHS Programme for IT and Connecting for Health. The report, by Richard Brooks, gives a history of the project since its ill-fated conception in 2002, and highlights the work of Computer Weekly and e-Health Insider in bringing the less functional aspects of the emerging system to the attention of the public.

What struck me most is the ticker tape running along the bottom of the report, which gives examples of what £12.4bn - the amount the National Audit Office estimated the system would cost over ten years last year - could buy for the NHS. According to Private Eye, £12.4bn would pay for:

  • 26,000 doctors for ten years, or
  • 65,000 nurses for ten years, or
  • The NHS's record 2005/6 deficit - 23 times over, or
  • Every hospital built since 1997 - three times over, or
  • 200 years of currently "too expensive" Alzheimer's drugs, or
  • 500,000 full courses of herceptin treatment for cancer patients.

Unfortunately, the report is not available online - although it will likely end up in the Private Eye shop at some point. It should be available from UK newsagents until 13 March.

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February 28, 2007 | Jason Kitcat

Committee on Standards of Public Life call for halt of May e-voting pilots

Yesterday, Sir Alistair Graham, chair of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, called for the 2007 electoral pilots in the UK to be halted, in a speech to the Association of Electoral Administrators conference. Sir Alistair's committee has recently published a report on the Electoral Commission calling for major reform of both the commission and our electoral system, particularly with regard to fraud.

Sir Alistair is proving to be a strong, independent new voice in the debate concerning our electoral system. His speech today made every point we would like to make and then some. Even though electoral fraud undermines voter confidence, is the DCA's and the Electoral Commission's focus on increasing participation causing them to turn a blind eye to fraud? Given existing problems with fraud and unsatisfactory systems for combating fraud, is it appropriate to rush ahead with pilot schemes?

Sir Alistair also argued that the government had been entirely misleading in their use of statistics from Northern Ireland, which has a much stricter electoral regime than the rest of the UK. Sir Alistair argued that in the long term new measures in Northern Ireland had not been damaging to participation as the DCA had argued, and that we should be replicating those measures across the rest of the UK.

The debate continued on BBC Radio 4's The World at One where Sir Alistair argued that the DCA's priorities were wrong, saying that "we should be concentrating on safeguarding the integrity of the current voting system rather than experimenting in remote systems which are bound to carry a high risk".

In an absurd argument, David Monks, Chief Executive and returning officer for Huntingdonshire, stated that if we don't pilot new voting technologies the fraudsters will have won by preventing changes which benefit society and meet our new modern lifestyles.

Finally, DCA minister Bridget Prentice MP replied to Sir Alistair by saying that he was "just plain wrong". She didn't accept any of his arguments whatsoever. She also ignored the implications of this week's visit by a Council of Europe delegation assessing whether the UK's electoral system needs to be monitored for fraud, along with many former Soviet republics.

We briefly met the Council of Europe delegation on Monday, giving them copies of the ORG e-voting briefing pack. They seemed to be deeply concerned by the level of worry about fraud in the UK. Indeed, my analysis of 2006 opinion research for the Electoral Commission shows that the public clearly want secret and secure votes ahead of anything else like convenience. Furthermore, political issues were shown to be the main barriers to turnout and not ease of voting.

As Sir Alistair puts it, "deep-seated voter disengagement will not be solved by tinkering with the mechanics of the electoral system".

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February 23, 2007 | Becky Hogge

IPRED2 vote delayed

Good news from Europe! It seems the European Parliament's Legal Affairs Committee (JURI), will not be voting on whether to criminalise intellectual property infringement until 19 March. The vote had previously been set for next week.

So there's still time to write to your MEP on the issue.

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February 22, 2007 | Michael Holloway

Renew for Freedom: March 26th deadline to escape database state

Act now, protect yourself later - renew for freedom! If you are aged 16 or over, you are strongly advised to renew your passport immediately. Please pass this important information to friends, family and colleagues.

No2ID's sterling work against the database state continues with Renew for Freedom, a website helping us avoid forced registration on the ID scheme database. This fantastic resource breaks down the lunacy that is the Identity Cards Act 2006, explaining why we must resist and ways for activists to help the growing opposition to Tony Blair's ID scheme. In particular, the site includes two great factsheets: 'Take a hike, Tony', is directed at those applying for their first passports and Factsheet 2 is directed at those renewing their passports. There's even a 'promote us' page featuring buttons and banners.

The March 26th deadline applies to us all but in particular if you're applying for a first adult passport, as you otherwise become a guinea pig in the ID card scheme, surrendering personal information to any and all state agencies (and contractors) who request it. Those renewing their passport are also advised to do so ahead of March 26th, or otherwise lose your personality and privacy to the database. Furthermore, if that's not reason enough, miss this deadline and you'll face an intrusive interview and lengthy delays in receiving your documents.

Please, please forward this information via your networks to raise awareness of this useless scheme.

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February 20, 2007 | Becky Hogge

ORG at BarCampLondon2

Over the weekend approximately 150 technophiles gathered for BarCampLondon2, an über-geeky conference on all things related to the web and an ideal opportunity to spread the word about ORG.

In addition to ORG supporters talking generally to people about ORG and digital rights issues, the programme included the following presentations:

  • ORG - The British EFF: Protecting Your Bits (Glyn Wintle). A general introduction to ORG, current issues and how to get involved.
  • e-Voting: World Domination Is Ours! (Sheila Thomson). A spoof evil-dictator presentation, pointing out the strengths of traditional voting methods and how e-voting makes it much easier to control the outcome of an election. It was captured on film by Ian Forrester

By the end of the conference there was a noticeable buzz of conversation about ORG and a stream of people heading off to find out more.

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