July 02, 2008 | Becky Hogge

ORG verdict on London Elections: "Insufficient evidence" to declare confidence in results

ORG's report into e-counting of votes cast in the London Elections is out today. The report, which is the result of a huge team effort, finds that:

"there is insufficient evidence available to allow independent observers to state reliably whether the results declared in the May 2008 elections for the Mayor of London and the London Assembly are an accurate representation of voters’ intentions."

Votes for London Mayor and the 25 member London Assembly were counted electronically, and overall the election was well-managed by the independent body set up to run elections in London, London Elects.

However, transparency around the recording of valid votes was a major issue, leading many of our team of 27 official observers to conclude that they were unable to observe votes being counted. And while hundreds of screens set up by vote scanners showed almost meaningless data to observers, London Elects admit that the system was likely to be recording blank ballots as valid votes.

The report also details how London Elects are unable to publish an audit, commissioned from KPMG, of some of the software used to count the London vote, because of disputes over commercial confidentiality. The situation highlights the problems that arise when the very public function of running elections is mixed with issues of commercial confidentiality and proprietary software. In the context of a public election, it is unacceptable that these issues should preclude the publication of the KPMG audit.

London Elects will pay Indra – the company who supplied both Bedford and Breckland during last year's chaotic trials of e-counting technology in local elections – upwards of £4.5 million for delivering the London e-count. Today's report recommends a full cost benefit analysis of any future e-count, set against a properly costed manual count.

This cost-benefit analysis should include our report's five recommendations for improved transparency around the recording of valid votes in e-counting systems. The problems around transparency observed by the ORG team can be solved, but it is important to ask: at what cost? There comes a time when electoral administrators need to ask themselves whether electronic counting really delivers value for money to our democracy.

Huge thanks go out to all the observers who put in hard work and long hours to make this report possible. We are still in the shadows of the chaotic May 2007 e-count in Scotland, and the electoral timetable is likely to preclude the deployment of computers in elections for the next two years. However, in that time these deterrents may have faded and legislators may feel eager to experiment with e-counting again. This report should be top of their reading list.




Comments (13)

  1. The Open Rights Group : Blog Archive » No e-voting in next year’s elections:
    Oct 27, 2008 at 04:56 PM

    [...] we observed when we released our highly critical report of e-counting in this year’s London Elections, the electoral timetable was always likely to preclude the deployment of computers in elections for [...]

  2. Denial of Democracy at LondonSays:
    Jul 03, 2008 at 09:57 AM

    [...] Open Right Group’s (ORG) efforts in examining the recent elections, covered here, should cause the political spods amongst us to [...]

  3. The Open Rights Group : Blog Archive » Next election for Mayor of London to be counted manually?:
    Jul 29, 2008 at 03:33 PM

    [...] to the ORG report were concerns around transparency, and the Electoral Commission report emphasises loss of transparency as one of the “hidden [...]

  4. Links » ORG Report on E-counting:
    Jul 03, 2008 at 01:47 PM

    [...] the electronic count of the London Elections. Yesterday, the Open Rights Group released its report on the count. The verdict? there is insufficient evidence available to allow independent observers to state [...]

  5. Petty. Me. Uk. » May 2008 London Election - ORG Reports:
    Jul 02, 2008 at 08:06 PM

    [...] Open Rights Group, with whom I used to volunteer, has published its report on the May 2008 London Election. It is also viewable here in a [...]

  6.   Ainda o papelzinho - Fudeblog by Cesar Cardoso:
    Jul 02, 2008 at 11:28 PM

    [...] eu penso em deixar de assinar o feed do Boing Boing, aparecem matérias fantásticas como essa, de como as eleições totalmente eletrônicas que foram realizadas para a prefeitura e a câmera [...]

  7. How Are The Anglicans Fighting at Zoomtard:
    Jul 02, 2008 at 05:01 PM

    [...] E-Voting continues to prove itself stupid. That’s a technical definition. I didn’t know you could get bunny suicides online. What [...]

  8. Electronic ‘voting’ « The Landed Underclass:
    Jul 02, 2008 at 09:19 AM

    [...] 2 July, 2008 by landedunderclass The Open Rights Group has published a report on the conduct of the London elections, which (64pp, 1.3Mb .pdf, and in places alarming reading) can be downloaded from here. [...]

  9. Open Rights Group Verdict on London Elections: “Insufficient evidence” to declare confidence in results « Aled Dilwyn Fisher’s Blog:
    Jul 04, 2008 at 02:01 PM

    [...] This from the Open Rights Group (ORG) is scary stuff about the validity of the London Elections (which I ran in!): [...]

  10. Salim Fadhley:
    Jul 02, 2008 at 01:29 PM

    I'd like to bring this matter to my MP's attention, but who in government is responsible for commissioning London Elects to perpetrate this spectacular failure? My MP is Libdem, so was unlikely to have voted in favour of electronic voting based on previous voting records, but she is only too happy to pass on well worded complaints to the appropriate government department.


  11. The Open Rights Group : Blog Archive » London Assembly Elections Review Committee - who would want to steal an election?:
    Jul 18, 2008 at 05:39 PM

    [...] Elections Review Committee met to discuss the conduct of the May 2008 London elections. The ORG 2008 Elections Report played an important role in their agenda and it was great to see it attached to the papers sent to [...]

  12. International News Round-Up « Hope2012:
    Jul 12, 2008 at 07:04 PM

    [...] London mayoral election e-voting results cannot be verified - OpenRightsGroup 7/2/08 [...]